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June 12, 2005

photo Record-Eagle/Douglas Tesner
With a smile on his face, Grant Forrester leaves the stage at Kresge Auditorium during graduation ceremonies Saturday.

Graduate gives new meaning to walking for diploma

Crowd gives standing ovation to teen

Record-Eagle staff writer

      INTERLOCHEN - Grant Forrester walked across the stage, took his diploma and held it up in one hand Saturday.
      And the crowd went wild.
      It wasn't the diploma or the glee of graduation day that brought everyone to their feet.
      It was the fact that Forrester walked across the stage and, despite a lifelong disability, is known as a happy and enthusiastic guy.
      Grant, 18, suffered a head injury when he was thrown from a car in a crash at the age of 15 months and now has difficulty walking and speaking.
      He normally uses a wheelchair to get around, but he practiced with a special walker for months to be able to walk across the stage at Traverse City West Senior High's commencement Saturday at Interlochen's Kresge Auditorium.
      Grant's mother, Lauren Bramer, said her son's love for his school, and his classmates' love for him, reached a peak in 10th grade when Grant was adopted by the school's football team.
      A boy once obsessed with Michael Jordan became a full-fledged Titan fan.
      "His whole room is Michael Jordan, but Titan fan is what he is now," Lauren Bramer said.
      It's clear in conversation that the football team's gesture remains important to Grant. Out of the blue, he talks, with a beaming face, about a gift he received that year.
      "I remember a couple of years ago when I got an autographed football from the whole football team," Grant said in his slow and deliberate voice.
      His stepfather, Tim Bramer, has a temporary medical condition that has forced him to use a walker. Bramer, once an avid fisherman who loved to be active outdoors, said knowing Grant makes it harder to complain about his condition.
      "I don't feel bad for myself when I think of what Grant has to go through every day," he said.
      Matthew Bush worked as a personal aide to Grant at West. He helped Grant into his walker and across the stage Saturday. Bush said Grant has the same effect on him.
      "You come into school feeling like you're having a bad day, and that kid's just glowing," Bush said.
      Bush has helped Grant practice walking since February, after Grant recovered from foot surgery and was able to begin working on his legs again.
      Grant, having participated in a March of Dimes fundraiser, says after school he might like to get into fundraising.
      "He might end up being an inventor," said Grant's aunt, Pam Lidster, of White Lake. "He's got some ideas (for) improving wheelchairs."

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