Posted: Aug 27, 2013 12:27 PM by Joe Proszek, KOMU 8 Sports Reporter
Updated: Aug 27, 2013 1:06 PM
TIPTON - Gracie Diggs loves baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals, but on Sunday afternoon, she got to do more than just watch them.
Gracie also loves all sports and staying active, but it is not always easy for her. At age four, doctors diagnosed Gracie with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. The disease mostly affects her knees, but Gracie's mother Anna Diggs said flare ups also occur in her hips and hands.
"It can really spring up anywhere," Anna Diggs said.
Anna said the condition is debilitating when it flares up. She said some mornings Gracie "can't even get out of bed" because she is so stiff and sore. When the flare ups hit her knees, Gracie often has to travel in a wheel chair.
But when Anna got the news about her daughter's condition, she said she tried to remain positive.
"I said, how can we turn this into a good thing to help others," Anna said.
That's how Gracie got involved with the Arthritis Foundation. Gracie is the child honoree for the Jingle Bell Walk in December, and helps raise money for research into a cure for her illness.
But some of her best work with the foundation came when it gave her a challenge: sell 500 tickets to the Cardinals game to help raise money. Gracie sold 700.
As a thank you, the Cardinals asked Gracie to throw out the first pitch on Sunday. She took the field with her family as the Cardinals announcers annouced her name to the crowd.
Gracie said she spent plenty of time in the backyard with her dad practicing for the pitch because she wanted to throw a perfect strike, but Anna Diggs said she didn't care where the pitch ended up.
"I just want her to have fun," Anna said. "If she throws it in the dirt, she throws it in the dirt. As long as it's fun, it doesn't matter."
But Anna did not need to worry. Gracie threw a perfect strike.
Gracie said the best part of the entire experience was that her family got to be there with her and was involved in the experience.
Gracie and her family said they understand that she will probably have to deal with her illness for the rest of her life. Nevertheless, Anna and Gracie agree that whatever happens, they will get through it as a family.