. August 30, 2013.

On Father’s Day this year, 5-year-old Jordan Rinker wanted to surprise her dad. And so, after months of secret hard work, she stepped—on her own—to her dad’s open arms across the living room for the first time.

“It was an unbelievable feeling of excitement,” said a heartfelt Jared Rinker, her father. “I was so happy, so proud of her. I never thought I would look up to my 5-year-old, but I do. She’s my hero.”

Because of complications during birth, Jordan was born with cerebral palsy, a condition that affects muscle control and tone. Jordan’s cognitive function was, fortunately, unaffected. Her parents, Crystal and Jared Rinker say that early on, doctors painted a pretty bleak picture for Jordan’s future—that she would not likely walk, probably wouldn’t talk much, was expected to need a feeding tube and wouldn’t hold a meaningful job.

“We never accepted that as her reality,” Crystal said. “We choose to live above the disability – we don’t let it define Jordan and we don’t let it define our family. We wanted something different.”

And different they got.

Jordan is busier than the average 5-year-old and is an inspiration to just about everyone she meets. Each week she participates in physical, occupational and speech therapy at Blanchard Valley Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine, attends sculpture and painting class at Awakening Minds and rides horses in an equestrian therapy program. In July, Jordan finished a 4-week camp at Sara’s Garden in Wauseon, Ohio  where she learned to push past some of her limitations.

“Jordan is a very understanding 5-year-old,” Crystal said. “She sets goals for herself and understands there is a path to get to her goal. Then she celebrates when she gets there.”

She ice skated with Gliding Stars this spring, and through Pure American Pageants was named Ohio State Inspirational Queen and was one of two National Inspirational Princesses this year. In the fall, she wants to try out gymnastics, and she is big sister to 2-year-old Karter and 1-year-old Spencer.

“When she wants to do something, I tell her we’ll find a way,” Crystal said.

Jared and Crystal say that when people see their daughter, there is a moment where they almost want to feel bad for her. But, that feeling quickly disappears before it can ever take shape.

“People are going to stare, but instead of seeing her disability, they see an empowered little girl with a big smile on her face,” Crystal said. “She makes them happy.

“She gives them something to see.”

Jordan will be a kindergartner at Van Buren Elementary this year, in a regular classroom. Someday, she would like to be an Ohio State cheerleader and a construction worker, since “they both help people.”

And with determination like Jordan has, there is no reason why she can’t.

“She is my daughter, but I always tell people I think she’s perfect,” Jared said. “She is the way God intended her to be, and I couldn’t imagine her any other way — she opened my eyes to the overall beauty in life.”