Liverpool stars send heart-warming messages to eight-year-old 'shining light' Grace

Liverpool Football Club has reached out to put a smile on the face of a brave eight-year-old Northern Ireland girl suffering severe cerebral palsy.
Grace O'ReillyGrace O'Reilly
Grace O'Reilly

Described as a ‘shining light’, the inspirational Grace O’Reilly was born premature at 24 weeks weighing a tiny 610 grams and has faced numerous health complications and surgeries in her lifelong battle for survival.

Only last year she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy but she refuses to let her debilitating condition stop her from getting involved in keep-fit classes with her neighbours during the COVID-19 lockdown.

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A video of Grace exercising with her mum, Michaela and younger brother, Lennon (3) in her front garden during a street fitness class went viral with over 7,000 people viewing a tweet by The Old Library Trust (OLT) manager, George McGowan who organised the event.

A family friend then decided to contact English Premiership giants Liverpool in the hope the Anfield club would get in touch and recognise the Reds fanatic for her impressive efforts.

And the current Premiership runaway leaders and reigning champions of Europe obliged, sending Grace a personalised certificate signed by manager Jurgen Klopp and the entire Liverpool squad in recognition of her incredible fighting spirit.

The certificate reads: “To Grace Morrow. Keep up the fantastic work!

“Thank you for your continued support!

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“From all the Players & Staff at Liverpool Football Club.

“You’ll Never Walk Alone!”

It was a classy response and Grace’s father, Justin Morrow, also a passionate Liverpool fan, explained how she was ‘buzzing’ with the personalised certificate.

“A friend of the family, Brian Kelly, messaged for my email address and I didn’t think anything of it,” explained Justin. “I then got an email from the club saying they seen the video of Grace and they sent a personalised certificate congratulating her on her hard work.

“Grace was delighted, as we all are as a Liverpool supporting family. We all grew up as Liverpool fans. Our wee boy Lennon is three and he’s always wearing football kits so Grace always wants to do the same and everything is Liverpool.

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“Grace was buzzing. We explained to her she got a certificate from Liverpool. She asked us ‘what for?’ and I told her it was for doing exercise. She sent them a video back saying ‘thank you’.”

The touching message of support has certainly brought lots of joy to Grace and her family who have been through so much during the past eight years.

Grace spent the first 11 months of her life in Neo-Natal Intensive Care Units in Royal Victoria Hospital and Altnagelvin Hospital and her parents were told by specialists that their daughter would have no quality of life and would probably never walk.

She was so sick on two occasions that the doctors asked Justin and Michaela if they wanted to turn off her life support machine but Justin explains they couldn’t imagine her not being here.

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“She had a problem with her bowels, a disease called Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC),” explained Justin. “She also had problems with her lungs and was on a ventilator for the first six months of her life. All-in she was in hospital for 11 months.

“Twice when she was in hospital she was so sick they asked us if we wanted to turn her machine off,” he explained.

“We couldn’t live with ‘what ifs’ and luckily enough she got better and stronger and we couldn’t imagine her not being here.”

Life in lockdown has been difficult for Ardnashee pupil, Grace, who is unable to walk unaided, and her little brother who are both ‘full of energy’.

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And so she was delighted to learn that local community group, OLT were coming to her doorstep to provide outdoor exercise classes while adhering to social distancing guidelines.

“She’s a little character who loves music and getting outdoors, mixing with others. Grace is very sensitive to loud noise and doesn’t like to be in a large crowds so we were delighted to see her take part in exercise.

“We didn’t think she would take part when they did the classes on the street she joined in after watching the rest of them and she loved it.

“When it was over she was asking when they were coming back up again, she was buzzing. She just loves the craic.”

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OLT manager, McGowan was delighted to see Grace taking part and he’s hoping a member of the Liverpool team can take part in one of their keep fit classes with Grace via Zoom.

They’ve visited 30 streets in Creggan and got almost 1,000 people involved and so he’s hoping one of the Liverpool stars can take up the challenge!

“We were noticing people’s spirits and moods were dipping a bit so we wanted to do something different,” he explained.

“Obviously adhering to the guidelines we thought we would take the exercises out to the streets.

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“We put two instructors on the street and they did the class with a PA system and cordless mics, they put together a half hour routine.

“We went to Ballymagowan Park where Grace is and they were all out with their next door neighbours. She was out in the middle of the garden.

“The rest were all jogging on the spot and punching out and doing mountain climbers and she was trying to copy them.

“She was loving it.

“I was hoping to do it again and maybe get a player to join in via Zoom or whatever to take part so we could instruct the class and have Grace involved in the garden.

“That would be amazing if it could happen so hopefully Liverpool are listening and can do one more good deed for wee Grace.”

So it’s over to you Jurgen Klopp and Co.!

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