The Wendy Davee
Shining Star of Peace Award Honoree
Given to honor those whose life and work bring light, hope and peace to others in a unique and inspiring way.
Read Gracie’s Story:
Grace Fisher was born on November 20, 1997.
As a youth, Gracie had a keen interest in music. She started with piano lessons at the age of six and developed an interest in cello, guitar, and voice as she continued through her high school years. She has played with numerous organizations in the community, including the Santa Barbara Strings, Santa Barbara Youth Orchestra, and Santa Barbara High School Jazz Band and Madrigals. Her dream was to enroll at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and pursue a Guitar Performance and Music Business Degree. She and her family were overjoyed when she was accepted to Berklee College of Music during her senior year.
In December of 2014, during a party to celebrate her 17th birthday, Gracie was suddenly overcome by pain in her neck and tingling in her hands. Upon arrival at the hospital a short time later, she had lost the use of her legs. The weakness progressed over the next several hours, and by nightfall Gracie was intubated and required mechanical ventilator support to breathe. She had lost all of her ability to move and was later diagnosed with Acute Flaccid Myelitis, a disease of unclear origin, but possibly related to certain types of respiratory and enteric viruses.
After five weeks in the ICU, she was transferred to Craig Rehabilitation Hospital in Denver, Colorado, accompanied by her mother, father, and younger sister. Her prognosis was grim, and her future uncertain.
She spent the first several weeks in Rehab mourning the loss of her ability to play music. “If I could only get the use of my hands back. I don’t care if I ever walk again,” she would say.
The rehab process by necessity focused Grace on the now. The team at Craig included physicians, nurses, therapists, and specialists of all kinds, who put a plan together day by day and minute by minute.
“What happened next when Gracie and Sara met was remarkable. Like music itself, the process was organic. Things were tried that worked, while other efforts did not. Little by little her neck got stronger and she could play piano with a mouth stick. She also learned she had the capacity to compose. Though she still cannot use her hands, she continues to be a talented musician and has taken up painting as well. The arts proved to be a powerful force, providing a continuum of who Grace was, who she is now, and who she will always be.”
Gracie was so thrilled and grateful for the transformative power of the arts in her life that she sought out a way to bring the healing of the arts to others who suffer physical and mental disabilities. This year, with the help of the Make A Wish Foundation and the Santa Barbara Foundation, Gracie was able to realize this dream with the establishment of the Grace Fisher Foundation: Colors for a Cause, whose mission is to “…facilitate programs in the community in coordination with other nonprofits to bring music and art to those living with a disability.”
Gracie states, “I often struggle with the idea of why this happened to me when my sickness has no known explanation. When I ponder the whys and the hows, it creates anger and frustration rather than anything constructive or useful. I have accepted that this is no one’s doing and I’m now finding purpose in who I have become.”
“Through our hardships we develop character, compassion and a deeper understanding for the world we live in.”
“…I have come to realize a deeper understanding of myself, the world we live in, and my relationship with God. God resides in the compassion of a friend, the tenderness of a caregiver and the generosity of a community. Though my body may appear weak, this is the strongest I have ever felt.”
“My path may not be a traditional one, but my only limitation will be my imagination.”
We salute Gracie Fisher for her courage and generosity and wish her every success in spreading healing through the arts.