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A walk for Grant

The third Hydrocephalus Walk, organized by the Miller family, raises awareness about the condition their 6-year-old son has

Grant Miller races mini plastic trucks across the living room carpet as he recounts his day at East Orient Elementary School.

Reading is definitely his highlight.

His favorite book right now is 'My Dad Snores,' and he brought his dad, Jerrod, to class as a 'prop' today for his book report.

Grant looks toward Jerrod and giggles after mentioning the book talk. His light-brown hair is gelled, and he wears silver-framed glasses. By any measure, Grant is an energetic, happy-go-lucky and engaging 6-year-old.

What's less noticeable is the partial paralysis on the left side of Grant's body and his sometimes delayed motor skills, a result of a condition caused by a small in utero stroke.

Grant was born with hydrocephalus - an abonormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid within ventricles inside the brain. An internal shunt helps drain fluid from his head to other parts of his body. But there's no cure, and his state could change at any time.

Grant has defied all statistics regarding the treatment for hydrocephalus: Half of all shunts fail within the first two years, up to 25 percent of shunting procedures result in infection, and hydrocephalus often means a lifetime of brain surgeries, with as many as 80 in 10 years for some people.

'The doctors put a shunt in Grant's head when he was two days old,' Tara, Grant's mom, says. 'The first year of his life, we just watched - we were vigilant. Then the nurses said, 'You're going to miss his life if you watch and wait for something to happen.''

Today, the Miller family, which also includes 10-year-old Emory, 3-year-old Drew and 7-week-old Maggie, is focused on celebrating Grant and raising awareness about the condition with their third Hydrocephalus Walk, scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, June 16, at Blue Lake Park in Fairview.

More than 250 walkers are expected to attend the event, which has raised more than $36,000 in the past two years for hydrocephalus research. The morning will begin with an opening ceremony, followed by a 2-mile walk in the park.

'These causes are all the same in their importance, but when they affect your kids, you find yourself trying to increase awareness - to bring families together,' Jerrod Miller says.

Jerrod is a Portland firefighter, while Tara is a former third-grade teacher in the Gresham-Barlow School District.

'Hydrocephalus is relatively unknown outside of the individuals and families who live with it day-to-day,' Tara Miller says.

As a result of hydrocephalus, Grant has been in physical and occupational therapy since he was 6 months old. Today, he receives these services at school but still sees a neurologist once a year.

A shunt is by no means a cure - it's a way to address hydrocephalus. And as a treatment that uses technology more than 50 years old, it drives the Miller family to raise funds for research.

'We're learning so much as we go, and Grant's doing a lot of the teaching,' Jerrod Miller says.

The walk begins at 9 a.m. Saturday at 20500 N.E. Marine Drive, Fairview, and will end around noon. Following the walk is a barbecue lunch by Portland Firefighters Association 43.

Registration is free. All participants will have the opportunity to buy a T-shirt for a $25 recommended donation.

To sponsor a walker or register online for the Hydrocephalus Walk, visit hydroassoc.org. Checks for the walk may be made to Hydrocephalus Association and mailed to Jerrod Miller, P.O. Box 922, Boring, OR 97009.