“She has fight in her,” Nikki Shipp said of her 3-year-old daughter Gigi Mrozek.
While Gigi laughs and plays like most other toddlers, she says very few words and cannot walk.
Since she was 6 months old, her parents, who live in Denver, noticed their third youngest child failed to hold her head up like most other babies her age.
While doctors have yet to give Gigi a true diagnosis, they believe she more than likely has cerebral palsy, Shipp said.
Prior to reaching the medical assumption, doctors thought the brown-eyed, curly-headed girl may possess some form of muscular myopathy, and therefore, administered a spinal tap, lumbar puncture and muscle biopsy, Shipp said.
While Gigi has yet to start walking, she will be soon — her parents pointing out how she already knows the motions but can’t quite follow through. When that day comes, Gigi will need a home with handicap-accessible accommodations.
Since Tuesday, local constructions workers — also considered close friends of the eastern Lincoln County family — have been bearing the end of summer heat to build a front and back deck, a walkway and handicapped ramp at the property.
B2 Construction Company, of Lincolnton, is providing most of the labor.
Owner Brad Beatenhead said he hopes to have the project completed no later than Friday.
While the family still has to contribute a small amount of funding to the much-needed home construction, the community has stepped up to provide a majority of the materials and manpower.
“It means a lot that people are taking their time and thought to come out here and build,” Shipp said.
She credits her 18-year-old son and East Lincoln High School graduate Tyler Brock with starting the initiative.
She said he used the success of his Mustangs football team — 2012 2A state champions — to raise awareness for his half-sister’s medical needs in the Denver community.
“Instantly, people started chiming in,” Shipp said.
All supplies stem from local businesses, too, including 800 square-feet of lumber, a $4,500 value, Beatenhead said.
The Helms Family, who own Tree Brand Packaging in Denver, donated the stack of wood and other hardware and supplies which Shipp said the Helmses purchased from the Dellinger family, operators of Denver’s Dellinger Building Company.
Dave’s Concrete Service in Denver chipped in by offering concrete, and St. James United Methodist Church, also in Denver, gave the family a monetary donation toward the project.
Other family friends, like David Hamby, searched for businesses that could donate and provide the work, Shipp said.
Her praise doesn’t end there.
Shipp thanked the area residents who didn’t give donations but offered support through prayer.
Over the last seven months, Gigi has shown extreme improvement in her physical strength and speech abilities.
“She’s improving and doing more every day,” Shipp said.
The mother of four attributes Gigi’s recent success to a particular medication doctors administered to her — a medication also used to treat Parkinson’s disease.
“The medicine burst the bubble she had been living in,” Shipp said.
Not only can the toddler now hold her own cup while drinking but also talks more, recently learning the word “Ma.”
“You don’t know how long I’ve wanted to hear that,” Shipp said.
And what Gigi is unable to say, she signs, particularly the word “more.”
Once a week, the child travels to Lincolnton to undergo physical, occupational and speech therapy at Carolinas Medical Center-Lincoln.
She also attends school tri-weekly at Catawba Springs Elementary School in Denver to participate in a class designed specifically for developmentally-delayed children.
During the early days of class, Shipp said Gigi sat in the classroom while fellow students played outside. Wanting her daughter to join in on the fun, she purchased her a small walker.
“The kids would go outside to play, and she would look out the window,” Shipp said.
While Gigi may struggle to walk, she has no trouble traveling from place to place.
Instead, she rolls around the house, sometimes prompting her little brother, Roman Otis, to do the same.
“She is definitely very headstrong in what she wants and determined…and she’s silly at the same time,” Shipp said.
The Denver mother feels Gigi has the same thoughts and mindset as her peers but is just developing at a slower pace physically.
“They (doctors) said she would grow like a stepping stone — that her muscles would just have to catch up to her,” Shipp said.
Construction crews will be at the family’s home on St. James Church Road each day through the end of the work week.
To donate to the project, contact Lori Maddox, research consultant for the Cleveland/Lincoln/Gaston Chapter of First in Families of N.C., at (704) 689-6648, or visit fifnc.org.