Stars from Beyonce to Kelly Clarkson to Whitney Houston have sung the national anthem on the national stage, but none of them captured hearts in the same way as a 3-year-old from Kentucky with a rare disease.
Grace Anna Rodgers, of Liberty, Ky., was born with Conradi Hunermann syndrome, a genetic disorder that has already forced her to undergo multiple cataract, glaucoma and spinal surgeries and left her unable to walk. Doctors have no idea what her future holds.
Yet, when it comes to singing, Grace’s future is bright.
The 3-year-old has become a viral star and inspired thousands after her mom, Angie Rodgers, posted a video on YouTube of Grace singing the national anthem.
“I would just go around singing it because I love the song and I love to sing it,” Rodgers, a teacher, told GoodMorningAmerica.com. “We were just sitting there one night and she said, ‘Let’s sing ‘Star-Spangled Banner.’”
“She’s my daughter, so everything I think she does is wonderful, but I thought it was so cute so I posted it,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers said she had long been posting videos of Grace to her YouTube and Facebook pages as a way to keep up with the many patients, doctors and caregivers they’ve met during Grace’s journey. What she didn’t expect is for this particular video to go viral, reaching everyone from a woman in her last days of life to soldiers to a former linebacker for the Green Bay Packers.
“A lady was receiving hospice and had six to eight weeks to live, and she’s choosing to spend the last days of her life watching my daughter’s video,” Rodgers said. “You can’t describe how that makes a momma feel.”
Rodgers said the thousands of emails she’s received since posting the video in October also included one from soldiers who said they played the video at the base every morning as a way to rally the troops, and another from soldiers in Texas who offered to help anytime, with anything.
Another surprising email came from Diyral Briggs, a former linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, who offered to do something special for Rodgers’ older son, Isaiah Spears, 16, who has been there every step of the way to help his younger sister.
“She’s changed our lives,” said Rodgers, who noted that she and husband Jeff are also trying to remodel their 90-year-old house to make it accessible for Grace. “We were a family that was go, go, go and involved in sports, and she just can’t do that so we stay home a lot.”
Rodgers said Grace, whom she describes as having a “roller coaster” on her back thanks to the hardware from her spinal surgeries, never complains and always has a smile on her face. Though she calls Grace “infectious” and “extremely intelligent,” Rodgers said she never could have imagined the impact her daughter would have, nor could she have imagined the generosity of others.
“I’ve not asked for a thing, and they just call us and offer stuff,” Rodgers said. “I just sit and cry reading all the comments on the computer at night. I can’t believe this many people love her. She’s just being her sweet self.”