How Birthday Money and a Ukulele made A Dream Come True With all of the political rancor getting worse and worse, I desperately look for uplifting, feel-good headlines in my news feed. Today I actually saw one. It seems that a perky, up-and-coming young star won this year’s America’s Got Talent. You may be asking, so what? Well, for one thing, this newfound talent is only 12 years old. Even more amazing to me is the instrument that she plays--a ukulele. Her name is Grace Vander Wall. Get used to hearing it. I have a hunch she’s going to be around for a long time. Some of you are probably fans of the show and have watched Grace from the beginning. Unfortunately, I didn’t. I saw a headline now and then, but I really didn’t follow the show or Grace’s story. Now that she’s won, she’s getting a lot of attention in the press. In fact, I typed “Grace” into my search engine and her name was the first thing to come up. That’s pretty impressive for a middle schooler from Suffern, NY, a town with only 10,000 people. (Note: when I googled “Suffern,” Grace’s name also popped up. Go figure!) I watched some videos of Grace singing and being interviewed. I have to say I really love this girl’s innocence and authenticity. There’s no fluff here. No gimmicks. Just a girl and her raw talent. That’s refreshing! Many of the songs she performed were old favorites, but some of them were originals that she actually wrote herself. I was also impressed by Grace’s backstory. After watching someone play the ukulele, she used her birthday money to go out and buy one and then taught herself to play it by watching YouTube videos. Hmmm… Resourceful, driven and willing to invest in her own self-improvement. That’s a pretty impressive resume for a tweenager! Being the winner of America’s Got Talent comes with a whopping $1 million prize and a gig in Las Vegas. My hope and prayer is that Grace stays grounded and true to who she is. In that regard, I’m encouraged by an interview where she was asked what she was going to do with the prize money. Some of it, she said, would be donated to charity--probably a musical charity. And what else? Oh, yeah, she wants to buy a tree house! Never change, Grace. That’s the best advice I can give you. You keep on writing, playing and singing, and we’ll keep on watching!