People: Lisa Maille

After the death of her daughter, alumni Lisa Maille turned grief into grace to help families in need.

By Doug McPherson

Publish Date: April 22, 2013

Lisa Maille
MSU Denver alum Lisa Maille opened For the Love of Grace, a nonprofit that
has helped 122 families of children with rare diseases throughout Colorado with gifts
of food, clothing, rent, utilities and many other basic needs. Photo: Evan Semón

This is more than a story of survival. It’s a story of triumph and transformation in the face of the deepest despair imaginable.

In the fall of 2006, Lisa Maille’s life was rich and full: She was working toward her marketing degree with a loving husband and three kids. It was also when she and her young family welcomed their newest member, Gracia — healthy, happy and named for her husband’s grandmother, Spanish meaning grace.

Then change of the cruelest kind. At 10 weeks old, Gracia was hospitalized with kidney failure and a respiratory virus. During her six weeks in the hospital, other problems arose: strange eye movements, irregular heartbeats, swelling under her tongue. But still, no diagnosis.

Then a glimmer of hope: In her seventh week at the hospital, doctors thought the baby was stabilized enough to return home. But she didn’t make it. At only 4 months old, on Jan. 20, 2007, Gracia died.

“The pain is far worse than anything I’d ever imagined,” says Maille (B.A. nonprofit administration ’11). “You just wish you could go back in time and hold her for one more day. Losing a child is not something you ever get over. Instead, it is a new way of life and a new way of doing things.”

A megaton bomb of grief detonated point-blank in Maille’s heart. How to gather the pieces?

For Maille, the answer was faith. “I remember praying and thanking God for the entire situation. I feel that one of my purposes in life was to have her and lose her to see what other families needed.”

Maille began researching a niche that could nurture her new life. She found that unless a child has a well-known disease or illness such as cancer or heart disease, sources of support are few.

She switched her major to nonprofit management, and exactly two years after Gracia died, Maille opened For the Love of Grace, a nonprofit that now fills that hole — and honors Gracia.

The organization has helped 122 families throughout Colorado with gifts of food, clothing, rent, utilities and many other basic needs. While most of those families are in the Denver metro area, the program’s reach has extended as far as Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Fort Collins, Fort Morgan, Evans, Wiggins, Greeley, Craig and Delta.

For the Love of Grace raises money through fundraisers and individual donations. Fundraisers have included bake sales, craft fairs, garage sales, art shows — even tea parties.

Maille’s advice for families with ill children: “Know you’re not alone. There is someone who understands. Connect with them. Know there are resources out there. You’re strong enough to endure the hardships that come along with having a seriously ill child.

Visit www.loveofgrace.org to learn more about For the Love of Grace and get involved.