'You can't ever give up on yourself': Stone hasn't let physical limitations stand in her way

Jade Stone, this year’s Rantoul Exchange Club ACE Award winner, is shown with her mother, Kira, and award presenter Bill Scott. The ACE Award goes to a graduating senior who has overcome obstacles yet still excels in school.

RANTOUL — Born with cerebral palsy, which left her right side paralyzed and with one-fourth of the left side of her brain missing, Jade Stone has managed to do a lot more in her young life than many people who are without physical impairments.

Stone has muscle weakness, stiffness and no coordination. She has no feeling in her right hand and cannot turn it over. There is no peripheral vision in her right eye. The list goes on: She suffers from degenerative disc disorder; she has to deal with pain in her feet and legs; the toes on her right foot won’t bend down; and she walks with a limp because her legs and toes are different lengths.

Those setbacks haven’t limited her. She remains focused on her goal of becoming a teacher of young children.

“Jade’s always been very strong-willed,” her mother, Kira Stone, said. “Failure’s never been an option for her. I’m very, very proud of her.”

Stone, a 2019 graduate of Rantoul Township High School, excelled academically and in extracurricular activities. She earned close to straight As with a 4.981 grade point average while being active in the school FFA chapter and working part time in a restaurant as a dishwasher.

The Rantoul Exchange Club last week presented Stone its ACE Award, which goes to high school seniors who overcome adversity to excel. Stone also won at the district level, which earned her a check of $2,500, and will advance to national competition. The national winner will earn a $15,000 check.  

Rantoul chapter President-Elect Janet Brotherton presented Stone with a check for $1,500 on behalf of the chapter.

Stone said she doesn’t let people looking at her physical limitations get her down.

Said presenter Bill Scott: “What she just said about people looking at you because you’re different, man looks on the outside. God looks at the heart. Our job as human beings, we should ... increasingly look at people through the filter of God’s eyes because that’s how He sees people.”

Stone agrees and said she wants to change the world. Wants to change it so people don’t look at others who are different than themselves and are not accepting.

Stone has undergone physical therapy, aquatic therapy and occupational therapy as a result of hemiplegia, the disorder that causes paralysis in half the body. She underwent corrective surgery on her Achilles tendon.

RTHS counselor Julie Kavanaugh, who nominated Stone for the award, said Stone recently developed sesamoiditis — a form of tendinitis — in her left foot because of how she walks. She now wears a different type of shoe and takes prescription ibuprofen to help with the pain because of the sesamoiditis and back issues. Kavanaugh said

Stone will develop more back and joint issues as she ages.

Kira Stone said her daughter’s problems were discovered at 9 months of age through an MRI, which showed an issue with her brain. She began physical therapy and occupational therapy before she reached a year old.

“Her diagnosis at first indicated she might never walk or talk,” Kira said. “Then they said she would probably walk with a walker.”

She proved doctors wrong on both counts.

She wore braces on her feet, a brace on her wrist, underwent botox injections with intense casting and therapy. Eventually she underwent surgery.

Did she ever get discouraged?

“I would say, ‘Sometimes, yes,’” Jade said. “I would get knocked down for a while, but I would eventually find out a way I would discover what I wanted to do.”

Most of her problems are dealing with pain.

“Other than that, it’s normal. I just can’t do some of the things other kids can do like driving and sports,” she said.

“What is so amazing about Jade,” Kavanaugh said, “is that she never lets anything get her down. She takes everything in stride, never complains and continues to do her best.”

The high school accommodated her by fitting a driver’s ed car with a middle shifter and left-side pedal, and she earned her driver’s permit. The family recently got a car for her, and when that gets fitted for her, she will be able to take her driver’s test.

It’s one accomplishment after another for the 17-year-old, who keeps her eyes focused ahead.

Stone said her strength probably comes from her mother.

Jade started high school in Buckley, Ariz., and moved to Rantoul in 2016 during her sophomore year. Kavanaugh said Stone quickly adjusted. She said her difficulties have probably made her more empathetic to others, and she wants to earn a degree in Early Childhood Education. She will enter Parkland College this fall to begin work toward that goal.

“This is a highly appropriate choice for her because of her love for children and her easy-going, friendly personality,” Kavanaugh said.

Besides her mother, Stone credited her teachers.

“They kind of pushed me to do more than I thought I could,” she said.

Kavanaugh predicts success for Stone: “I have no doubt that with Jade’s persistence and her ability to overcome any obstacle in her way that she will be a success at whatever she chooses to do in life.”

Stone has a word of advice for others: “You can’t ever give up on yourself. You have to push yourself, even if you think you can’t. You have to find a way that you can do it.

It might not be what people think it can be. It might not be the easiest way. You have to find what works for you.”