For about 15 years, we've been following the story of Brianna Graves, an active little girl at age nine, who was diagnosed with Gorham's Disease… or "Vanishing Bone Disease". This time, instead of focusing on what Brianna can not do anymore, we want to explain what she can do now… thanks to a lot of generous people.
Robert Franklin of Interim HealthCare says it started with an idea to remodel her bedroom, but it snowballed. For many years, Brianna Graves lived here with her grandparents, behind the doors opening of a one car garage stuffed with all her belongings and a lot of medical equipment. (Brianna has a rare disease that has left her bedridden with no movement below the neck.) Robert says, "Before you knew it, we had people stepping up to say - how can we help - what can we do?" Jasper Jowers, a builder and owner of Destiny Homes, says he didn't know how their plan would all come together but "God works miracles and we just go to depend on Him."
The miracle came this spring behind the little white house where Brianna lived in the garage. Bulldozers dug up a big chunk of the back yard between her grandfather's house at the front and workshop at the back. At least 35 area businesses and hundreds of volunteers answered the call to make Brianna's dream come true… building a home of her own just a few steps in front of her grandfather's workshop.
So how could she live in a home of her own? The plan was to build a Smart House for Brianna that would allow her to regain some independence. The sign by her front door says Bri's Chateau. What you see when you step into her Chateau is a bedroom with a large picture window, a full kitchen and a bathroom. What you don't see is all the high-tech conveniences.
Tyler Dirks is the mastermind with Innovative Designs that installed all the automation to make Bri's house "smart". Now, he says, "So what Bri can do, she can control all her lights, her fan, the TV, the temperature."
Brianna controls everything through the dot on her lip, which acts as the mouse for her computer. Tyler says, "She's moving her lips to control that mouse. We have our software on her computer that controls the automation in the room." So, when I asked her to turn on the fan, only her bottom lip moved, but she turned on the fan! Brianna continued to show me all her new tricks.
She turned the kitchen light on and off several times. She lowered the thermostat and raised it again. She showed me how she can choose from hundreds of songs to play whatever music she likes, whenever she likes.
Perhaps the coolest and most convenient trick of all was her new ability to raise and lower the blinds to protect her eyes from the sun or just open up the room to the view outside.
Tyler really bragged about Brianna when he told me, "I remember I was trying to show her how to do all this and she took the mouse away from me. She caught on in about five seconds. Bri's real smart and especially computer savvy."
As for her medical concerns, there's a little nurses station in her house too. Angie Graham was sitting at that desk when I was there. She said, "She has nursing care 24/7." She also told me Brianna's new place is amazing compared to the one sided garage where she used to come check on Bri.
Meanwhile, Brianna's grandfather, Jim Torres, says he feels good knowing Brianna finally has the privacy she deserves with her own place close to the main house. Jim adds that he welcomes the job of Master Gardener, making sure the beautiful new landscape around Bri's Chateau keeps looking good. "You hear so much in the world, negative stuff, and you look at what's been going on around here these last few months, all the volunteers and the God fearing Christian people doing this for her, it's a miracle. It really is."
So what does Brianna think about her new Chateau?
She told me, "I love it." "Thank you to all the builders, all the I.T. guys, and people who wrote scripture on my wall and brought housewarming gifts or just visited. Thank you for making this house a home"
Thank you, Brianna, for showing us that even when life becomes difficult, faith can bring a community together and turn dreams into reality.
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