A celebration of life and power of God’s love
By Glenn Hannigan
It is a raucous annual event held each December. The throng of celebrants, from preschoolers to grandparents, has grown steadily each year.
It is not a typical birthday party.
In its early years, the little celebration took over a corner of Mi Casa, the family’s favorite Mexican restaurant. As the party continued to grow in popularity, more tables and booths were commandeered. In recent years, the entire restaurant on Ga. 92 in Woodstock is filled for the occasion.
The annual event is not as much a birthday party as it is a celebration of life, love, and God’s mercy. On Dec. 19, 2012, Savannah Donley turned 17. A large, joyful assembly of family and friends gathered to mark the event.
The guest of honor sat in the middle of the room, surrounded by balloons and well-wishers. Most young women turning 17 would almost assuredly be bombarded with lots of annoying questions from adults about school, driving, boys, activities, college plans, etc. But not Savannah. The party in her honor is not to celebrate what she has done or what she might do. It is simply to celebrate her life.
For 17 years, a celebration of God’s gift, the miracle of life.
Shortly after birth, Savannah was diagnosed with a rare, debilitating chromosomal disorder, Trisomy 9. Doctors told her parents it was possible that Savannah would never go home, that she might not survive a month. Savannah’s parents asked their pastor to please hurry to the hospital to baptize her.
Hillside United Methodist Church members joined the battle in prayer. When Savannah finally made it home, a small group soon arrived to lay hands on the little girl and pray for a miracle. Enduring bonds were formed.
Savannah cannot do what other girls her age take for granted. She will never meet a friend for a cup of coffee, shop at the mall or go for a hike on a crisp winter afternoon. Trisomy 9 has left her unable to speak.
But Savannah can communicate. She responds with obvious love and affection to her mom and dad, sister, Payton, 18, and her brothers Sam, 15, and Jake, 11, who also has Trisomy 9.
And her life has not been without its victorious moments.
At her 6th birthday celebration, as the theme from “Rocky” blared throughout the restaurant, Savannah stunned her party guests by using a walker to navigate across the cheering room.
Seven years later, the crowd grows a little larger and the cheers a little louder to celebrate a young woman who has brought so many people together in love and in prayer.
Her life is a reminder that, oftentimes, the most powerful testimonies to God’s love require no words.
Happy birthday Savannah.