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Manitowoc family fundraising for handicap-accessible van for daughter with serious health issues

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MANITOWOC, Wis. (WBAY) – The Manitowoc community is rallying behind a teenage girl and her family, as she continues to face serious life-long health issues.

Thirteen-year-old Gracie Clark is full of love and many smiles. She loves listening to music, especially Elvis, and most importantly, she loves going on car rides.

“If you tell her the night before ‘we are going bye-bye,’ she will get up at 5 AM ready to go, bye. She won’t let you forget it. She loves to be on the go,” said her mother, Ashley Brown.

However, Gracie has faced many hardships with her health since she was born, making it extremely difficult to take those adventures that she loves so much.

“Gracie has the most beautiful soul. She does not see hate, she does not judge. She loves everybody she meets and her laugh is contagious. She deserves to go on as many adventures as we can get her on,” Brown said.

Brown says almost every year it seems like her daughter is diagnosed with a new condition, a new challenge.

“When she was born, two months later I noticed that she wasn’t tracking anything with her eyes. She was diagnosed with septo-optic dysplasia. It came back that she was totally blind in both eyes. She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy on her left side, so she doesn’t walk. She’s wheelchair-dependent, momma-dependent. She has Gastroparesis and has a permanent feeding tube. She has Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. She has severe epilepsy and it’s very hard to treat. She’s on several sedating medications. She also has chronic respiratory failure. She has some heart issues going on. We’re still working through those that we just found out about. That’s the most recent thing that she’s going through,” Brown explained.

Brown says they desperately need a handicap-accessible van to get Gracie to and from appointments in Madison and Milwaukee.

“What we do is we load her up, my partner and I will pick her up and put her into our van that we have now. Then we have to put her wheelchair in the back, which is very heavy. Gracie’s five feet tall, 140 pounds, and her wheelchair is 84 pounds. If she has multiple appointments at different places, I’m constantly taking her out and putting her in, taking her out and putting her in,” Brown said.

Close friends started a GoFundMe page to help the family try and reach their fundraising goal.

People can also help Gracie by coming to the Get Gracie on the Road! benefit this Saturday from 2 PM – 10 PM at the Wildcats Longbranch Saloon, 4008 Village Drive, Whitelaw.

“I stay at home with Gracie full-time, and my partner works full-time, even overtime. It’s just impossible to try to save and get enough for a really good van that would last her,” Brown said. “A wheelchair van would give us the freedom where she can go on adventures more.”

Community members can find more information about Saturday’s fundraiser on the Facebook event page. If you’d like to donate to the family’s GoFundMe, click here.

13-year-old Gracie has significant health issues