Marcella Grace

As a small child, Marcella Grace Pierce would swing to her heart’s desire — as often as she could with her siblings.

Her parents say she loved the sensation of the wind hitting her face.

That, and she just loved being outside with her family. Marcella is a warm-hearted child who is beloved in the south Lafourche community.

But because of an early childhood illness, Marcella is now confined to a wheelchair with a ventilator attached to her body.

With a big, bulky wheelchair now part of her life, opportunities to swing have been few and far between in recent years.

But now, thanks to the generosity of the people in southern Lafourche Parish, the little girl can feel that wind on her face again just like she used to.

And she’s not stopped smiling since.

The Marcella Grace Handicap Swing Project is halfway complete — a project which will install two swings accessible to handicapped children in Lafourche Parish. The first swing has been setup at the Larose Civic Center Park. The second will be coming to the community park in the Town of Lockport.

Funds for the project were raised by the south Lafourche business community and also a GoFundMe account.

The parents of the young child say they’re overwhelmed with the love and support of the community — a group of people who’ve allowed Marcella the opportunity to swing again.

“For this community to support us and other families with disabled children or family members is overwhelming and it truly warms our hearts,” Marcella’s mother Amy said. “We are extremely proud and grateful of the generosity of this whole community. This project is not only for Marcella, but for all the disabled children or family members in wheelchairs across our community.”

The idea for the project and its ability to come to light shows the power of social media and the love and support people have for one another in the south Lafourche community.

Amy Pierce shares a Facebook page with her husband, Marcella’s father, Kyle. One day, the family shared a post on social media showing a handicapped person swinging in one of the swings. The family commented that they believe every community should have one installed for disabled children.

And the wheels got turning quickly.

The family was then contacted by Thomas Arceneaux, the board president for the Larose Civic Center. From there, he contacted contractors and sought out monetary donations from local businesses.

The family created a GoFundMe and those donations, combined with the donations from the businesses, were enough to secure the two swings.

“It truly brings our entire family such joy to see the disabled children in our community enjoying the small things in life like swinging,” Amy Pierce said. “It warms our hearts to know that because we simply shared a Facebook post about a handicap swing, that it inspired our family, friends and community to come together to make this a dream come true for the disabled children in our community. We cannot thank everyone enough for making this happen.”

The namesake of the project is a special little girl — an inspiration to many in the south Lafourche community.

Marcella is 10 and she was born healthy.

“She was able to do what most people can do — walk, run, ride a bike, swing and dance,” family members say.

But in Sept. 2014, multiple viruses attacked her spinal cord unexpectedly, paralyzing her and leaving her on a ventilator.

Doctors are not sure which virus caused the paralysis, but she tested positive for viral meningitis, rhinovirus, enterovirus and RSV. She spent 82 days at Children’s Hospital and was diagnosed with Acute Flaccid Myelitis — an extremely rare disease that does not have a set prognosis.

Marcella receives outpatient physical and occupational therapy in hopes of someday regaining mobility in her affected limbs. Daily, she’s confined to a wheelchair and needs a trained caregiver with her at all times because of the ventilator.

But you’d never know it when around the child.

Marcella is a lovable child. She’s always smiling and has a way of finding goodness in life — even through its difficulties.

Earlier this season, she threw out the first pitch at a South Lafourche High School baseball game. She shook her head and smiled, while delivering a strike to her older brother Joseph, who plays on the team.

“Marcella has not let her illness take control of her life,” Amy Pierce said. “She still has her bubbly, fun-loving personality and everyone seems to gravitate towards her because of her happy, joyful personality. She has truly inspired so many people because of the way she has handled her life change. Marcella’s faith is so strong for such a young girl.”

With the swing now complete in Larose, Marcella has tested it out now several times. Her family members say she’s been as happy as can be since being able to swing again.

It’s those little moments of normalcy that family members say they cling to, moments where Marcella can smile and be carefree — just like the other kids, even if just for a couple of minutes.

“Her smile says it all when she was able to swing for the first time,” Amy Pierce said. “She would go swing every day if we could bring her.” •

Follow Casey on Twitter for more.

Casey Gisclair is the Sports Editor at Rushing Media. A native of Cut Off and graduate of Louisiana State University, Casey is a lifelong sports fan who joined the Houma Times team in Dec. 2009 upon college graduation.

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