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Zoe and Zelda are ready to take on the world!

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Zoe Grall - Willow Springs Middle School

Student of the Month

Zoe Payton Grall’s name means “Life Warrior” and never was there a name more fitting for a child.

Zoe was born with spina bifida and will be in a wheelchair her entire life, but that doesn’t hold her back.

For a time, Zoe participated in horseback physical therapy. For five years, the family famously hosted a wildly successful lemonade stand to raise funds for her tuition. With the support of a generous community, the family was able to fund Zoe’s tuition and sponsor two other students as well.

Then COVID hit. The horse therapy program closed, and the lemonade stand has been put on hold, but one thing hasn’t changed: Zoe knows how to “Squeeze the Day.”

For some, hardships have a way of filling them with hope instead of despair. The Grall family is one of the fortunate few. Their home is filled with optimism and laughter. And Zoe, with her smiles and her stories, simply lights up the room.

She’s in 7th grade at Willow Springs Middle School, and these days she loves hanging out with her therapy dog, Zelda.

Her dad says, “She’s all of our therapy dog. She levels our family out and has a keen awareness of ‘this is who needs me right now.’ She’s a Ferrari of a dog and I still can’t believe they gave us the keys.”

In addition to hanging out with Zelda, Zoe is active in choir and theater. This past fall she played an Oompa Loompa in her school’s production of Willy Wonka, Jr. Her eyes light up when she describes how she had to rescue Octavius by the shorts from the chocolate river.

She also participates in her school’s Pokemon club. At the mention of Pokemon, she and her little brother, Lincoln, dart to their rooms to grab their cards. They excitedly talk over and
around each other as they share their favorites. (Zoe’s is Jigglypuff.)

It’s no wonder her motto is “Let’s Roll,” because, despite all her struggles, she joyfully keeps moving forward.

“Happiness can come and go,” says Brooke Grall, “but joy is internal.”

What She’s Watching: No Demo Reno, Animal Planet, and musicals

Who She’s Following: Moriah Elizabeth on YouTube

Have a nominee for Student of the Month or First Responder of the Month? Send your nomination to our editor by emailing

  • Zoe and Zelda are ready to take on the world!