MULBERRY, Fla. - She's just over a year old and already making a difference. Little Ava Reyes of Polk County was diagnosed with spina bifida before she was born.
She was recently chosen to be featured on billboards around the country to spread awareness of what's possible and celebrate World Spina Bifida Day.
Spina bifida may be part of Ava Reyes' life but those two words don't define her.
"She is the happiest baby and she is so full of life and sass," said her mother, Erika Reyes. "She is so sassy."
Every day is a gift. Every milestone is a miracle.
Erika and Jorge Reyes tried for years to have a baby. They endured a miscarriage and two ectopic pregnancies.
"When we found out we were pregnant, I called my husband and was like guess what, he was like, 'no way'," Erika Reyes recalled.
That excitement faded to fear at 24 weeks when they got the diagnosis.
"They started making these lists, paralysis, she may never walk or talk or eat or use a bathroom on her own," Erika Reyes said.
Despite the risks, they pushed forward. At 26 weeks, they had fetal surgery. At 27 weeks, Erika's water broke. Three weeks and two days later, Ava Lynn Grace entered the world at 3 pounds, 5 ounces.
"My husband comes over there and he's crying and he's like, 'she's moving her toes, she's moving her toes' and I started crying," Erika Reyes said.
Ava spent 87 days in NICU and had two brain surgeries. Now, at 15 months, she's beating the odds with full function and reflexes from her waist down.
Amid weekly physical therapy and countless doctor's visits, little moments like sitting, standing and crawling are what matters.
"It tickles me when I see her crawling," Erika said, watching Ava play.
Now, people around the country get to see her thrive. Ava and two other babies were chosen to appear on billboards through the non-profit Redefining Spina Bifida to celebrate World Spina Bifida Day.
These small children sending a big message: "That these kids are happy. They're happy. They have not let Spina Bifida define them," Erika Reyes said.
They're also showing the world that nothing is impossible.
"She is just so amazing," Erika Reyes said. "I feel like she can change the lives of so many people."
Ava's mom said she'd love to get her into modeling. Her ultimate goal is to have Ava appear as a guest on The Ellen Show. You can follow her journey on her Facebook page, "Fight Like Ava."