When I first sat down with Molly, it was early December and she was already dressed in full Christmas attire — seasonally striped socks, colorful bracelets, a jingle bell Tee and earrings that mimicked classic Christmas ornaments jingling as she walked — never mind this was still weeks before Christmas. As it turns out, Molly is a holiday buff and dons Christmas attire every day starting December 1st. She decorates her home, office and even herself for every holiday
or event. “I’m a child at heart…I still watch all the holiday movies with just as much excitement as I did when I was a kid,” says Molly.
Molly’s story begins nearly 15 years ago when she meets and falls in love with Lafayette native Walter Guidry. The happy couple enjoys a traditional courtship and is married [Yes] between Christmas and New Years of 2005. Wedding colors? Yep, you guessed it — red and green!
Lifelong friend Delia Walker remarks, “It’s so like Molly to get married during the happiest time of year—she’s so happy and jolly herself.”
Life is good and the young couple begins to plan for the future…Fast forwarding almost two
years, the Guidry’s learn they’re pregnant. Ecstatic with the news, Molly begins to prepare for motherhood.
Little did she know, her strong religious faith and positive attitude would soon be put to the test. While pregnant, Molly learned that the child she was carrying had an extra chromosome. Her soon to be born baby girl would be born with Down Syndrome (DS). The baby she had waited so long to have would have special needs. She recalls, “At first, Walter and I were in shock. We were also a little scared because we didn’t know what the future held for us or our baby girl; we just knew it would be life changing… We quickly got past those thoughts and decided that we would be the best parents we could be because God chose us as her parents and God chose me as her mother.”
Ellie Grace Guidry was born in April of 2007. A fragile little girl at only 5 lbs. 4 oz., Ellie Grace
came into this world with a heart condition that required a risky but successful surgery to correct. Although life has not been easy at times, “Little Ellie Grace” is now eight years old
and is thriving as a third grader in the Lafayette Parish School System. Like many mothers,
Molly describes her daughter as her world, saying “She only knows unconditional love,
she has no other way of being. She absolutely loves with no conditions attached. She is a tremendous blessing.”
She is indeed a blessing but also very blessed. Blessed not only because she has an extra chromosome and is able to love unconditionally — something most humans strive to do — but because she has Molly as her mother. Completely putting her life on hold forgoing her passions to paint, karaoke, and travel, Molly has dedicated herself to make sure Little Ellie Grace has the best life possible.
Even before Ellie Grace was born, Molly began learning as much as she could about children with Down Syndrome. She also began getting involved with the Down Syndrome Association of
Acadiana (DSAA) who helped further her education on the condition. Molly states, “Down
Syndrome isn’t an ailment. Some people have blue eyes; Ellie Grace has Down Syndrome. Other than that, she is just like everyone else. She has feelings, friends, desires and aspirations.”
For the past eight years, Molly has served as Media Coordinator for DSAA. She was very passionate when speaking of the organization, which is a model to organizations like it across the state. The Annual Buddy Walk is their biggest fundraiser and Molly organizes a team that has won for the past few years. In 2015, their team, “Ellie Grace’s Smiling Face” won Most Creative Team, Most Money Raised and Largest Team with 130 members. Molly was proud to announce that Ellie Grace walked the entire mile for the first time without riding in her wagon.
In her typical selfless fashion, Molly didn’t take any credit for the team’s accomplishments saying, “Ellie Grace won three awards.” Truly, Molly is the reason the team is so successful, going above and beyond what is expected by creatively making t-shirts as well as developing a cadence for the team to recite while walking, motivating everyone on the team.
Her enthusiasm for life, love of family and faith in God is infectious and inspiring. Her zest for
life and child-like spirit brings her office environment to life. Employed by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL) for the past 15 years, Guidry works as an Administrative Assistant in the Industrial Technology (ITEC) Department of the College of Engineering. Self proclaimed Administrative Goddess, Molly expressed how much she loves helping the students, “I usually guide them throughout their college career and love hearing from them after they graduate. But, they all know Ms. Molly doesn’t play! They are required to be adults and I am very firm.”
Despite (or maybe because of) her tough love, all the students love her and she is the go-to person. With all of her work responsibilities, she still finds time to decorate the office and dress the part for every holiday and event. Corrine Dupuy, a professor in the ITEC Department, praised Molly saying, “She has so much energy, it’s impressive to watch.
She’s upbeat and passionate about celebrating life. She’s also very spiritual, which I
appreciate.” Corrine, having two adult DS children of her own, met Molly prior to working together at ULL, through DSAA. “I only wish I had as much energy as Molly! I told her to wait until Ellie Grace is 30 years old — she won’t have that much energy!” Corinne said with a laugh.
Corinne isn’t the only fan of Molly’s in the workplace. Ahmed Khattab, Ph.D. began his ULL career right around the time Molly gave birth to Ellie Grace in 2007. He said she is not only the go-to person for the students but for the staff as well. He spoke very fondly of Molly, recalling that he took a liking to her right away, “I’m a good judge of character — it’s a talent of mine — and I knew right away that she was a good person. I still have the cigar she gave me when her daughter was born. It’s as old as my career here at ULL.”
Dr. Khattab, Associate Dean of Engineering, expresses that it’s their strong faith in God that strengthens their friendship. He and Molly, people of different faiths and cultures, are the
prime example of how God can bring people together, family to family. Her faith has always been a part of her life. One would think having a special needs child is the ultimate trial of faith, to which she dove right in with complete abandon. Little did she know that her faith would be
In March of 2012, Molly was coming home from a Down Syndrome convention in Washington DC. During her connecting flight to Houston, her body started to swell, her head was hurting badly and she couldn’t speak. Not being able to communicate for the entire three hour flight, she thought surely she would die on the plane. “All I kept thinking was: I’m going to die on this plane and Ellie Grace needs me,” she recounted the experience. Once they landed, Molly stood up to make the connecting flight to Lafayette and collapsed. Paramedics diagnosed her with an allergic reaction and grounded her until the last flight of the day. She continued to swell and her head was in excruciating pain.
Finally arriving home, after another day of agonizing pain, Molly took the advice of family members and went to the emergency room. After several tests, the doctor came in with long awaited news. He bluntly told her that she had a brain tumor, would need surgery, and then promptly walked out. Molly was shocked at his lack of bedside manner but her strong faith kept her positive. “They said the barometric pressure of the plane brought on the severe symptoms. I see it as a blessing because it could’ve gotten worse, had the tumor not been discovered.”
The egg-sized tumor was non cancerous but still needed to be removed. On April 10, 2015, she underwent a three hour brain surgery, losing part of her eyesight in the process. During her one month stay in the hospital post-surgery, the doctor’s learned her brain was leaking spinal fluid. On May 4th, she underwent a second surgery to correct it. She showed me pictures and I noticed they had shaved her entire head. When I expressed sympathy, she waved her hand and reassured me, “It’s just hair. It grew back. No problem. I’m here.”
I asked how she dealt with the extreme stress of the brain tumor and the possibility that it may return. She replied, “Do I wish that I didn’t have it? Sure. But, I know that God put me through that for a reason. The reason hasn’t surfaced yet, but maybe it’ll show up — maybe I’m supposed to inspire someone else. I don’t know.” Molly hardly realizes how much she has and continues to inspire so many people throughout the community.
Dr. Khattab recalls, “I was devastated when I learned of Molly’s brain tumor. I know that her daughter needs her and I was so worried. I told my wife that I would go to Molly and help lift her spirits to get through this, which I did the next day. Funny thing is, Molly ended up lifting ME up. She was the strong one. She had a huge smile on her face and told me everything was going to be alright. She seemed to have no fear and had 100% faith that God would take care of her. That inspired me then and still does to this day. When I’m having a hard time, I recall Molly’s strength and faith in that time of crisis.”
Keeping an optimistic outlook on life for someone who has been through so much is a puzzle to the people around her. Her friends describe her as well-mannered, simple and happy — someone who doesn’t stress and takes whatever life throws at her knowing that God will take care of her.
Molly’s life is completely and selflessly dedicated to her daughter. A typical day starts out with several meltdowns from Ellie Grace that dissolve quickly. The Guidry household is lively with Ellie Grace roller skating indoors and wearing a different pair of shoes (often her mother’s) for each room in the house. Although Ellie has a meltdown to dress, eat and get on the bus, eventually she does all three things with a big smile. And Molly just rolls with it saying, “Sometimes we get up at 3:00 a.m. and tap dance. Once that girl decides to do something, there is no stopping her. She is going to do what she intends to do.” How Molly handles the ups and downs of everyday life while still maintaining her poise, grace and infectious smile, is beyond most people. She seems to take everything in stride, stating the secret to her happiness is her strong religious faith and support from her family and friends.
Molly surely has her hands full but she makes time for everything and everyone. She takes care of the things she deems most important—God, family, work (in that order)—without complaint. When asked about how she envisions her future, she quickly responds, “I want Ellie Grace to be happy and treated fairly.” Just like Molly…to never think of herself.
~~~~ Despite their busy lives, this past summer the Guidrys welcomed a foreign exchange student from Japan into their home. When originally approached to take in the young girl, Maika Maeda, Molly wasn’t sure she could handle another responsibility. She and Walter prayed about it and asked God for signs, which he sent. She smiles when she talks about Maika, who is now a sophomore at Lafayette High School where she’ll continue until the end of the school year; at which time Maika will return to her Japanese homeland later this summer 2016. “The way I see it, she can teach us and we can teach her — she comes from a culture that is very different from ours. We are obviously a religious family, whereas Maika comes from an area that does not practice Christianity. She’s [Maika] a sweet, kind and smart young lady. We’re so happy to have her in our life,” says Molly.