A special valentine greeting to an unbelievable kid. I posted this story when I first met Juliana. I heard today that she is doing very well and still continues to be full of unconditional love and hope:
Juliana Wetmore is one in a billion. She is one of four or five of people in the world born without a face. (Her new adopted sister also suffers from Treacher-Collins, the same syndrome.)
Juliana has had countless surgery’s to start creating a face that will take many years and many, many, more operations as she grows. She is hearing impaired, breathes through a trach and, at present, eats through a feeding tube (although apparently she has started to lick cheese off a pretzel stick). She was featured on a documentary called Born Without A face, not too long ago.
One of the most amazing things about Juliana is that she goes to a REGULAR school and is actually a grade ahead of most of her classmates in academics. She is extremely smart, warm, friendly and, well, just a regular kid.
I met Juliana a while back because she happened to be with her third grade class during one of my performances at her school on our USO world tour of Jacksonville, Florida. (Juliana’s dad is in the Navy.)
It was very hard, at first, for my mind to actually process what I was seeing. It was heart stopping to say the least. I was stunned when I first saw her, but boy did that little golden soul of hers shine out of those sweet eyes and through those Coke bottle glasses in no time. To see her chuckling at my dumb jokes and giving me a thumbs up after my story about the Botshabelo orphanage in South Africa stands as one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had.
I fell in love with her instantly.
She was the first person to ask me a question during the Q&A section and came up and gave me the biggest hug when I was done with my presentation.
She stood next to me while I was talking to another young girl who recently lost her dad. While I was speaking to the tearful little girl, Juliana saw that I was trying to support the struggling girl, and in solidarity, slipped her hand into mine and stood alongside me patiently holding my fingers while I listened to her grieving friend.
Afterwards Juilana and I had a wonderful little conversation with the help of her sign language interpreter. Then, after another big hug, and a little wave, she left the cafeteria with her class.
In the car driving back to our hotel my business partner Woody and I cried softly.
We didn’t say anything.
We didn’t have to.
Happy Valentines Day sweet Juilana. Thank you for the unconditional love you exude. You are truly inspiring. A ray of light for those who may be in a dark place. You girl, are a real beacon of hope.