LA PORTE | The last eight months have not been easy for Sam Maule, whose young daughters nearly died in a motor vehicle accident.
The fighting spirit exhibited by 5-year-old Jaidyn and 7-year-old Neilah in their bid for a full recovery earned them special recognition.
The girls were named ambassadors for the City of La Porte during a Thursday night presentation by Mayor Blair Milo.
''I was truly honored by the way La Porte has rallied around the kids,'' Maule said.
Milo gave the girls a plaque, keys to the city and a goodie bag containing stuffed unicorns.
''If anybody has ever wondered if miracles really happen, these girls are living proof that they do,'' Milo said.
The immense challenges the girls and their family faced were made greater dealing with the loss of father's girlfriend, Katie Atkins, 26, who died in the July 19 crash.
Police said the Valparaiso woman was taking the girls to their grandmother's house in La Porte when their vehicle was hit head-on by an SUV that crossed the center line on Joliet Road near Westville.
The driver of the SUV, John Mikle, 35, allegedly was under the influence of PCP, police said.
Charges, including reckless homicide and operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing serious injury, are still pending against him in La Porte Circuit Court.
Neilah, who was the most seriously injured, surprised doctors when she began breathing on her own after being taken off a ventilator.
Neilah, who now walks with a cane and help from her father, sustained a traumatic brain injury along with massive injuries to her jaw and a broken leg.
''They didn't think she was going to pull through and every time she would surprise Western medicine,'' Milo said. ''I think the power of prayer and the power of her hope and faith of the community and her family in what she was going to do in her own strength has really done a tremendous thing.''
The prognosis of a full recovery is more favorable for Jaidyn, who sustained broken bones and facial injuries.
Their grandfather, Darrell Crites, is a La Porte firefighter.
Maule said no words can describe what he has gone through since the accident but he has tried as much as possible to maintain a positive attitude.
''It's something you're never prepared for but it's something you got to move through,'' Maule said.