Remembering Hannah Grace at Laura Bush Middle School

Published: Oct. 7, 2014 at 5:17 PM CDT|Updated: Feb. 15, 2016 at 3:20 AM CST
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Hannah Grace and her boyfriend, Ty Marshall (Source: Venable family)
Hannah Grace and her boyfriend, Ty Marshall (Source: Venable family)
Hannah Grace and her father, Keith in 2007 (Source: Venable family)
Hannah Grace and her father, Keith in 2007 (Source: Venable family)

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Hannah Grace passed away Sunday morning, Aug. 16, after going into cardiac arrest on Aug. 14. Hannah was only 15 years old.

She was born with Down Syndrome, but that didn't stop her from living out her dream as a 7th grade cheerleader at Laura Bush Middle School.

KCBD remembers her from a story Taylor Langston wrote last year.

As the evening sunshine pours over stands at Lubbock-Cooper's Pirate Stadium, Hannah Grace Venable leads the way onto the track.

With pom poms in hand, and a smile radiant on her face, she's the first to enter the gate among the other 8 girls on the 7th grade cheerleading squad for Laura Bush Middle School.

Mondays are her favorite day of the week.

Her favorite show, Dancing With The Stars airs, and it's the day she gets to cheer.

Hannah Grace was born with Down syndrome 14 years ago.

But that doesn't define who she is or determine what she is capable of.

In fact, her parents Keith and Karla say it has never held her down before.

"She heard it on the announcements at school, and came home saying 'I be cheerleader, I be cheerleader." Karla says. "And after that I talked to the cheerleading coach and asked what we needed to do for her to be able to try out."

She went through the process like every other girl, tried out before judges and attended all the clinics and was named honorary cheerleader for the 2014 football season.

"It's just something we didn't ever know she would be able to do," Karla says with tears in her eyes.

An emotional truth because the Venable family wasn't sure Hannah Grace would still be here today.

In January 2007, her parents found her unresponsive on her bedroom floor, believing she had fallen off her bed.

A horrible accident that brought to life a terrible reality that Hannah could never be the same.

Days spent unresponsive in a Lubbock hospital showed that Hannah had significant damage to her spinal cord.

She was then taken to The Children's Hospital in Dallas.

"For the first month, we weren't even sure she would make it," Keith says. "She was completely paralyzed on her left side."

She spent four months in Dallas, participating in grueling rehab and long days but in Our Children's House at Baylor, she made a remarkable full recovery.

In the meantime, tens of thousands of dollars was raised by the Lubbock-Cooper school district on behalf of Hannah Grace.

Keith has been a teacher at Lubbock-Cooper High School for nearly 20 years.

And he says because of the donations and support, they hardly skipped a beat.

"That allowed us to be right by Hannah's side, which is where we needed to be." Keith says.

Fast forward 7 years, and Hannah is a bubbling, beautiful, precious young lady.

With a slew of cheerleaders behind her that she calls 'her girls.'

"She wakes up on the days there's a pep rally or a football game and she says 'my cheer, my cheer, I get to go be with my girls." Karla says. "She loves the cheering and the dancing and the more the crowd yells, the more animated she gets. The girls on that cheerleading squad get her."

Her body is still weak sometimes, and she gets tired and sore.

But her heart and spirit never grow weary.

Shelby Nelson is the Laura Bush Mascot, and she says though she has only known Hannah a short time, the impression Hannah has made has been lasting.

"She just loves," Shelby says. "She loves everyone so much. And it's so real, it's so big."

She loves to dance, to cheer, her girls... and she loves Ty.

"She 100% loves to talk about Ty." says Halle Hudson, 7th grade cheerleader.

"Ty Marshall is Hannah's boyfriend." Karla explains.

And Ty is Hannah's perfect counterpart.

"He wears a jersey, he goes on the bus with the football team, and he's kind of the coach's right hand man."

Ty also has Down syndrome, the two have been in class together since they were just 4-years-old and have always been inseparable.

Destiny Cheatwood is another member of that cheerleading squad, and she says this season with Hannah has opened up many doors for her.

"She has changed my career path," she says. "I want to work with special ed when I get older because of her. She truly loves it, she was born to be a cheerleader."

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