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Surgery patient Destiny Strickland, 11, of Sandy Springs, will serve as the grand marshal of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s 39th annual Children’s Christmas Parade Dec. 7 in Midtown.

Destiny Strickland is proving anyone can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

The Sandy Springs resident was selected as the grand marshal for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s 39th annual Children’s Christmas Parade Dec. 7 in Midtown. Destiny, 11, is a surgery patient at the pediatric healthcare system.

During her mother’s routine pregnancy checkup, doctors noticed abnormalities on her ultrasound. Destiny was diagnosed with amniotic band syndrome, a medical condition in which the amnion bands affect the development of babies in utero, before birth.

The condition affected the development of Destiny’s face and caused severe facial clefting, the absence of her left eye and more. To date, Destiny has undergone more than 30 facial reconstructive surgeries with the Children’s plastics team.

“It feels exciting that of all the kids (who are patients there), Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta chose me. It makes me feel happy and excited and special,” the High Point Elementary School fifth-grader said.

Lisa Brown, Destiny’s grandmother and legal guardian, said dealing with her diagnosis before and after her birth was a shock.

“In the beginning it was very tough and life-changing,” she said. “(The syndrome) was something I haven’t heard of and an emotional rollercoaster in the beginning. Now this is our life and I don’t know anything different anymore.”

Destiny said growing up with the syndrome has been difficult at times.

“Sometimes it feels good to be different, and sometimes it’s tough, and sometimes people still make fun of me because I’m different,” she said.

Brown said she’s thrilled with how her granddaughter has handled adversity.

“I am so proud of her,” she said of Destiny being named grand marshal. “She never stops amazing me. She just keeps going and keeps accomplishing. I can’t way to see how her adult life turns out.”

Destiny has adopted the mantra “Different is Beautiful.” She wants everyone to embrace their differences, not reject or hide them.

“We have different experiences,” Destiny said. “If people are all the same and dressed the same, they’re boring. … Express yourself and never change the way you look based on what other people think.

“I want to also say respect your differences, and don’t let anyone change you based on the way you look.”

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