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Community surprises teen with ceremony after she breaks legs at graduation

Moments before receiving her diploma, a teen with brittle bone disease broke both legs. The Bertha, MN community surprised her days later with a graduation re-do.

BERTHA, Minnesota — On the cusp of achieving her dream, a Bertha-Hewitt graduate broke her legs before reaching the stage. "I was walking. I felt fine, and then all of a sudden, I felt it snap. And as that snapped, I shifted my weight, and I felt that snap above my left knee. And I felt it down in my femur on my left leg as well."

Julie Ellis has osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease. She had surgery and therapy to specifically help her walk across the stage to get her diploma. So the fall was devastating and not only for Julie. 

"Just the hard work, determination, the inspiration, she deserved that closure to graduate with the rest of her classmates," said Eric Koep, superintendent of Bertha-Hewitt Schools.

While Julie was prepared to accept not seeing that graduation milestone through, her community wasn't. Once Koep found out that Julie was able to come home from the hospital, Koep rallied the community.

"We had a lot of people help, our school board, our principal, a lot of our staff members, community members; it takes everybody," said Koep.

On Tuesday, just days after her fall, came the big reveal. 

"They threw me a surprise graduation, and I had my classmates there, and I actually got to have my tassel [on] and got my diploma, and I graduated high school," exclaimed Ellis. 

"It was an amazing moment. There weren't many dry eyes in the house. To see her, to see her get the appreciation she deserves with all of those people there, [it] was a pretty special moment that won't be forgotten," said Koep.

Julie will need to have another surgery on her legs. 

There's a GoFundMe account set up to help her family with unexpected medical costs. If you'd like to contribute, you can find the link here.