Local Girl Gives Back to the Disability Community in a Big Way

Marni has raised over $63,000 and is aiming to break the $100,000 mark this year.

Summer camp, endless sleepovers, and trips to the beach might be some of the activities that make up the summer of an average teenage girl. 13-year-old Marni Graves of Pocantico Hills certainly enjoys those things but there is something else that makes her tick. She has an overwhelming desire to help people in the disability community. It’s a big part of who she is and it’s what makes her story so inspiring.

Graves has lived with cerebral palsy since she was an infant and has Hemiparesis, which is a weakness on one side of her body that makes motor control and movement difficult. She likes to think of her disability as more of a superpower than anything else. Despite her disability, Graves strives to bring awareness to cerebral palsy in any way she can.

“I just want people to know that anything is possible. Disabilities don’t matter because you can do anything you put your mind to. Just follow your dreams,” Graves said.

Graves lives by her own words. This September, she is taking part in STEPtember, a global health and wellness fundraising event supporting Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation. CPARF is an organization that works to improve life for people with Cerebral Palsy and other disabilities.

STEPtember is a virtual challenge and it’s open to anyone. It encourages participants to move 10,000 steps a day – whenever, wherever, and however. The event runs the entire month of September.

“STEPtember is a way to give back to the disability community, especially the people with Cerebral Palsy and It feels really good,” Graves said.

This year’s STEPtember will mark Graves fourth time participating in the event. In the previous STEPtember, Graves raised over $63,000. She’s shooting for the stars this year and has set her fundraising goal of $40,000. “If I can reach my goal this year that means I will have raised over $100,000 to help those with cerebral palsy,” Graves said.

“Disabilities don’t matter because you can do anything you put your mind to. Just follow your dreams,” Graves said.

Graves is a determined young lady and wants to raise $500,000 for the cause by the time she graduates high school.

Graves has help from her friends and family at this year’s STEPtember. “It feels great to know my family is behind me and that helps me stay motivated,” Graves said. She knows that 10,000 steps might sound like a big challenge for many folks. “It’s a lot of steps, especially if you have a busy life but it’s worth it. My family and I hit the trails at Rockefeller State Park Preserve and get the steps in,” Graves said.

Fundraising can be a challenge, especially when times are tough. But Graves is holding her own and beating a few corporate giants at raising money for STEPtember.

It’s all in the name of friendly competition, her father, Scott Graves, playfully boasts about his daughters’ fundraising abilities. “Marni is always in the mix against huge organizations,” Scott Graves said.

Banter aside, Scott Graves knows what really matters. “The money is one thing but it’s the awareness that is important. I like to think that each step we do is much-needed awareness. Each step is generating power and positivity to helping people, and that’s what I like about this campaign and our involvement in it,” Scott Graves said.

And just like a good superhero, Graves wants to use her superpower to help people. When she’s not raising money for a national cerebral palsy organization, she helps advocate for those who need it. When a large company donates to CPARF, Graves sends a personal thank you video thanking the organization on behalf of her disability community.

According to her father, the emotional videos can be impactful and recalls the story of a young boy named Ray with cerebral palsy. He was called upon to make a thank you video. Unfortunately, he lost the ability to speak due to the disease and Graves stepped in and helped communicate the message for Ray.

“She’s got her head on her shoulders for sure and all she wants to do is help people. That is something that makes me so proud,” Scott Graves said.

In the United States, 33 children are diagnosed with cerebral palsy every day.

To help Marni Graves reach her goal, please visit www.steptember.us/fundraisers/marnimagic.


  1. Dear Marni,

    You are an outstanding young women! It is so important to put discussions about CP out in the public because there is so much mis-information.

    I am an educational specialist who has focused on CP for decades and I have recently published a book entitled Educating Students with Cerebral Palsy: A Comprehensive Guide for Educators and Parents. (Available of Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com).

    I will donate my book to a couple of individuals who are involved in the growth and developments of students with CP and who contribute to your valuable cause.

    Best wishes,

    Dr. Adine Ray Usher, EdD
    Hartsdale, NY 10530

    1. Thank you for sharing your book! Interested CP parent here. I will go check it out. And bravo Marni – thank you for living your passion and being a positive light.

      1. Thank you for your kind words. Please let me or my parents know if you ever need someone to speak with.

    2. This is awesome @ Dr. Usher – thank you! I’d love to meet you sometime, we are local. Thank you for your kind words and I’ll check out the book.

  2. Marni, You are so inspirational. My daughter also has hemiparesis of her right side. She is 25 but she also has a developmental delay, she feels like she will never be “normal”. I am going to show her the article about you. I hope she can see someone like her doing everything that other people do and it will give her hope.

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About the Author: James Carsey