Confident, independent, and compassionate are words that describe 25-year-old Gracie Holland. Gracie was a FACES client while she was growing up, and she is now paying it forward by working as a camp counselor at FACES Camp.
Gracie’s mom, Chandra Holland, recounts that they had no idea until after Gracie was born that she would have Crouzon Syndrome. She was told by the hospital that Gracie had a facial anomaly that will “require a surgery to correct.” There was no information readily available to parents about facial differences, so Chandra became a pioneer searching for information in medical libraries and eventually found FACES on the Internet. FACES supplied information through visits to the family, they also helped pay for the transportation and hotels needed for many of Gracie’s 36 surgeries.
Through gratitude for FACES, Chandra felt like she and Gracie should “pay it forward with advocacy.” When Gracie was younger, they would often travel to Chattanooga and help with fundraising efforts through public speaking and printed materials. Chandra instilled in her daughter the drive to help others and lead them along the path to inclusion of all people. So naturally, when FACES began to develop the idea for a summer camp in 2019, Gracie jumped at the opportunity to help! She was one of three counselors with a facial difference.
Gracie recalls her experience as a counselor with excitement. She took advantage of the leadership training offered by the camp property, which took place 6 weeks before FACES Camp. She found it to be beneficial and shared what she learned with the other FACES Camp staff members. Gracie says, “I think I have always been a follower, not a leader. I have never been in a position of leadership before camp. As a counselor, I was able to make decisions based on what I knew was best, and I didn’t have to ask anyone else. Coincidentally, while I was at camp, I received a job offer to lead an after-school group at an elementary academy.” The headmaster at the school was impressed with her willingness to be a camp counselor and her exposure to children with special needs.
“When I was growing up, there was no camp like this,” Gracie says. “I loved the fact that kids were able to have a camp experience that was nothing to do with medical stuff. It was all about the fun.” She continues, “When the kids realized that they could do things that they have never done before, they came out of their shells. And, as they watched the counselors, they saw that they can be leaders, too.” Gracie states that “it was a blessing and an honor to be part of something as extraordinary as FACES Camp,” and concludes, “I’m definitely going to be a counselor again!”