Girl forgoes birthday presents for pro-life race
Pretty in pink T-shirts, 7-year-old Ella Grace Francis and her 35-member team “Ella Grace’s Birthday Beauties” stood out among the more than 500 participants at the April 9 Born to Run race in New Orleans.
Not only did the group win a certificate for having the largest team, its namesake – Ella Grace Francis – was sung happy birthday by the band Pelican 212, and, in turn, was called to the stage to sing happy birthday to babies who were saved from abortion in 2016.
“Ella Grace had a ball,” said her mother, Stephanie Francis, about the race to benefit Woman’s New Life Center, a Christian organization that opened in 2001 to provide women’s health and prenatal care and counseling that preserves the sanctity of life. “We had a ball. We just showed up, and they had food and a birthday cake.”
Ella can talk up a storm
Ella Grace is the middle of three children of Stephanie and Nic Francis, and they live in Destrehan. She turned 7 on April 6. Her mother, who home schools Ella, her older brother Andrew, 8, and younger brother Caleb, 3, said Ella Grace is a verbal child who loves math and science in school and also loves to draw, dance and sing. She loves to get hugs from her brother Caleb and rides bikes and jumps on the trampoline with both brothers.
When she was discussing what to do for her birthday party, Ella Grace remembered her mother mentioning the Woman’s New Life Center and how it helps moms and babies and that the center was having a race. The idea took off from there.
Ella Grace asked her, “Can I have my birthday there and have all my friends run with me?” Initially, Stephanie Francis said no. “You can’t ask anybody to go and buy a ticket (for the race) and get you a present, too.”
Ella Grace’s response to that was simple, “I don’t need presents, I just want to help babies. ... All the babies deserved to celebrate a birthday, like I have a birthday.”
Ella Grace said she didn’t miss not getting gifts – although one friend did bring a gift.
“I have a lot already,” she said. “I don’t need any more, so I told my mom I’d rather be in the race.”
Francis said she worked with Woman’s New Life Center’s organizers to arrange the details for the team to walk in the 1-mile fun run.
“We fell in love with the organization, the people who work there and the heart of it all,” she said.
Francis said she had wanted to do something to help the center since she believes in the sanctity of life and has instilled in her children the preciousness of it as related situations came up.
“I hadn’t gone into gruesome details about abortion with them, but when I was pregnant with my youngest, I told them how God put the baby there, how he has a plan for the baby’s life and how he helped them (babies in the womb) move and kick,” Francis said. “Life is important to us. My cousin had twins at 32 weeks, and even though they are tiny, my kids witnessed that. I told them It doesn’t matter how little they are, they are still people.”
Francis said she bought tickets for her immediate family and approximately 20 of Ella’s Grace’s friends to participate in Born to Run. Parents of her friends and other family members bought their own tickets. Members of their church – Lakeview Christian Center in New Orleans – made donations to help Ella Grace’s team raise $1,200.
“This was an awesome way to give back,” Francis said. “I would have never thought of something like this at age 7. Her guests learned that Women’s New Life Center existed.”
Francis said being Christian, her family is passionate about protecting the unborn and was glad she could help the center.
“I hope more people would get the idea to do something like this,” Francis said. “It teaches little acts of charity children can do. Now my son is looking for something like this to do. We were so blessed and feel it is important that kids know that it is not about them all the time. I was proud of her. She used her birthday as a way to help others.”