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Texas parents keep their late daughter's light alive through her 'Vail's Tales' stories

Vail Johnson wanted to be an author, but died from a rare heart condition when she was just 9 years old.

DALLAS — It’s been six years but feels like yesterday.

Just before bedtime in 2016, Susan and Chad Chance said their 9-year-old daughter, Vail Johnson, came to them with a dream.

“She told me, ‘Mama, I want to be an author when I grow up,’” Susan said. “And it was a very clear path for her. That’s what she wanted to do.”

Sadly, Vail Johnson never had the chance to pursue that dream. Later that night, she died unexpectedly in her sleep from a rare form of myocarditis.

Her dream of being an author was a dream that may have easily been lost if not for what they found.

“We had no idea that she had this treasure of writing,” Susan said.

Unbeknownst to Susan and Chad, Vail had already written dozens of stories. They discovered many of them after Vail’s death.

“We found them around the house, stuffed under her mattress,” said Susan.

“Stuffed around the house in places that we had no idea,” Chad added.

Vail wrote many of her stories in Corey Haughton’s first grade class.

“And she never ran out of things to write about,” Haughton said.

“Her teachers began poring through her books and it was like instant, ‘this is what we’re gonna do,’” said Susan.

“We had the raw materials and we didn’t want to let that dream die,” Chad said.

Three years after her death, Vail became a published author. With the help of a professional author in Atlanta, they’ve turned some of Vail’s stories into three books.

The latest two books – “Fishing for Trouble” and “Party Animal” – were released last month. Susan and Chad plan to release many more in the future.

The series of books, “Vail’s Tales,” have become some of the best-selling in their genre, partly for what’s in the stories, but mostly for what’s in the author.

“She’s just a bright light and an example for kids of all ages,” Chad said.

“That is what I want kids to get from it is that same heart that she had because it was unique,” said Susan.

To that end, they created the Friends of Vail Foundation, to promote literacy and help kids who have the same passions as Vail.

Susan and Chad told WFAA that Vail always knew what to say to brighten someone’s day. It’s a gift she shared with her words, and a gift they now get to share with the world.

“It’s our responsibility to continue to tell her story and hopefully impact as many people as Vail did, “Chad said. “Just pay it forward.”

That’s how you keep a dream alive.

For more information on the Friends of Vail Foundation, or to purchase a copy of Vail’s Tales visit https://www.friendsofvail.com/.

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