Grit and grace are two perfect words to describe Amara Dunham. Since she came into the lives of the Dunham family eight years ago, Amara has been Julie and Chris’ (mom and dad) tough and sweet little girl.
Amara was born at 30 weeks and spent almost a month in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Blank Children’s Hospital. For the first few months, the Dunhams believed the developmental delays were associated with Amara being so premature. When she was 6-months-old, a developmental nurse visit raised questions of Cerebral Palsy. After an MRI, Julie and Chris found out their daughter had Cerebral Palsy (CP), a disorder affecting movement, muscle tone and motor skills.
“The news shocked, scared and unnerved us a bit,” said Julie. “We learned what we could about this diagnosis, and we wanted to do everything we could to help her succeed.”
Julie and Chris wanted Amara to have the same opportunities as her cousins and peers, and as she grew, Amara started participating in any activity that caught her interest.
“She always wants to be in on the action, no matter how limited her involvement may be,” said Julie.
And Amara does just that. She is a member of the Apex Wild Cheerleading team, plays for the A's in Miracle League Baseball and fulfills her aspirations to become a ballerina with Ballet Des Moines' Dance Without Limits program. With her strong sense of adventure and passion for trying new things, Amara has accomplished other amazing feats, such as zip-lining and horseback riding. Slowing down just isn’t an option.
“Amara doesn't let her CP diagnosis or her wheelchair confinement get in the way of things she wants to do,” said Julie.
Amara also loves school, telling her parents her excitement about all the new things she is going to learn in third grade! Music is her passion, and Amara attended a week long show choir camp this summer. She is always singing, listening to music and asking to download songs onto her iPad, usually with an American Girl doll in tow.
Today, Amara attends Physical and Occupational Therapy at Blank Children’s and continues to learn and master new skills. She also receives speech therapy services through her school.
“Amara helps us keep things in perspective,” said Julie. “She is such a strong girl, and she makes you want to be strong for her.”