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CROWN POINT — Growing up, Alexa Grady learned to ride a bike. She was a Crown Point High School cheerleader, played volleyball and surfed.

An Indiana University-Bloomington graduate, Alexa has her dream job in the marketing department of the Indiana Pacers.

What makes her journey uniquely extraordinary is that Alexa accomplished everything having only one arm.

At only age 2, Alexa, the daughter of Realtor Lisa Grady and Dyer Assistant Police Chief Troy Grady, lost part of her arm when her hand became caught in a meat grinder at her grandparents’ pizzeria.

Lisa Grady says seeing your child hurt or suffering is the worst thing any parent can imagine.

“We felt blessed that she was not taken from us that fateful day on June 13, 1997. However, our hearts were broken to see her lose her beautiful hand,” Lisa said.

“Time healed all of us as Alexa excelled in everything she did. Her outgoing personality and zest for life made it impossible for us to feel sorry for her or ourselves. We did not know it that day, but she was to become a leader, an inspiration and a ray of hope to anyone facing a physical challenge in life. We know she will continue to conquer the world with whatever she desires to do.”

Lisa said the most important advice she and her husband received after Alexa’s accident was not to treat her differently from their other children.

“As hard as that was, we believe it was the key to her amazing self-confidence,” Lisa said.

“Letting her try and do anything she wanted even if we were not sure she would be able to succeed made her an incredibly strong person.

"We also learned there is nothing she can't do — from learning how to ride a bike with one arm, (to) serving a volleyball and (to) putting her hair in a ponytail. We let her just be a regular kid. She was simply a little different on the outside.”

As Grady grew, her parents were amazed by her ability not only in achieving physical goals, but also how she handled herself in social situations.

“She let her difference become a voice for everyone facing a challenge,” Lisa Grady said.

When Grady played club volleyball her mom said the coaches from other teams were amazed at seeing a one-armed girl serve the ball like she did.

Taking it all in stride

Grady, 23, said she doesn’t have a specific memory of the first time she realized that she had a prosthetic arm.

“My accident happened when I was 2, so I didn't know that I was different until later on,” Grady said.

“I do have this vivid memory of when my siblings and I put our hands in the freshly poured concrete in front of our house, and I had my handprint and then my ‘little arm’ print. I think I then realized that I was a little different than my siblings.”

Alexa said her parents’ support has made her the woman she is today.

“Since the day that I lost my arm, they have pushed me to do my best and conquer anything that I wanted to achieve. They have taught me what unconditional love is,” she said.

Her advice to anyone facing daily physical challenges is “to just keep persevering, and you will find your niche.”

Grady, who was recently engaged to Lane Hosier, said right now she is living her best life. The couple recently bought a home in New Palestine, Indiana.

“He has been such a light in my life and he has shown the love and compassion for me that I had always dreamed of,” Grady said of her fiance.

She believes confidence is the best thing for amputees like herself and her friend, Kari Disney, who also is an amputee, to develop.

“I encourage anyone that is struggling with their self-image and self-love that they look into groups such as Friends of Bethany (Hamilton), because it completely changed my life,” Alexa said.

Bethany Hamilton is a professional surfer who lost her arm to a tiger shark bite at age 13 in 2003. The group since then has grown and offers encouragement and support to amputees.