She’s different now. Cancer will do that to a person – if you survive.
Grace Callwood was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer on her seventh birthday.
Grace Callwood, Founder, We Cancerve: “I think cancer changed me because I pray to God more. There was a lot of pain and a lot of medicine and a lot of staying home from school. Sometimes I’d pray for me to not be in pain.”
T’Jae Gibson, Grace’s Mom: “She’s very soft spoken. But the tiger inside of her is there, ya know. So, she knows what she wants. She’s a very self-aware child.”
(Grace to board members at meeting) “Please take out your agenda, it’s inside your folder.”
In the conference room of her church, Ames United Methodist in Bel Air, Maryland, Grace has gathered friends for the first official board meeting of We Cancerve. That’s the name she has given the initiative she’s begun to help kids in difficult situations.
Volunteer at meeting: “If we could raise enough money, we could buy a billboard.”
Another volunteer: “We could make it, the baskets or bags, look pretty. Like we could use ribbon because my mom has a lot of ribbon.”
Grace has delivered toys, clothes, and beauty supplies to young people in a local shelter, and group foster care, and she’s created social events for them. A lemonade stand raised $600.
T’Jae Gibson: “And she’s split the money evenly between the hospital clinic where she gets treatment and one of the foundations that makes sure that kids who are sick get to still have fun.”
Today, Grace and some of her board members are delivering packets they call “transFUNners” to the Baltimore hospital where Grace gets care. The kits contain pillow cases and craft materials for young patients to decorate as desired, to cover an I.V apparatus.
Grace Callwood: “Because some kids might not want to see certain medicines going inside of them because like I didn’t like to see the blood transfusions going in.”
T’Jae Gibson: “Gracey has chosen foster, sick and homeless kids because she views them as kids in vulnerable situations not of their own doing, it’s not their fault.”
That was something Grace struggled with -understanding she didn’t do anything to cause her cancer. Faith helped her accept and move forward. Her pastor says Grace always had faith.
The Rev. Thomas J. Blake, Ames United Methodist Church: “The congregants have seen it in Gracey, and it has helped them become more determined and more resolved to reach out to others and to be God’s love.”
T’Jae Gibson: “We get muddied down sometimes as adults with excuses. All she knows is someone’s hungry, why can’t we give em food? There’s someone who needs clothes – we gotta lot of clothes and we find sales all the time lets go buy em! Simple solutions, and I finally had to say, ‘Yeah. Okay. Makes sense to me, too.’”
A care basket, jeans, or a “transFUNner” may not change the hardest circumstances for some, but, Gracey has had a definite impact on many people…
Volunteer at meeting: “We could have, like a garage sale.”
…like her We Cancerve volunteers…
Another volunteer: “But what would we sell?”
“Get the parents to donate all the stuff.”
Sarah Beall, Board Member, We Cancerve: “I learned from Grace that you can accomplish anything because she pushes people to do what they need to do and what they think they can do.”
Ahmad Smith, Board Member, We Cancerve: “I think young people can do great things. I mean, next movers and shakers in the world.”
There’s still a long road ahead, medically. But doctors recently determined that Grace is now cancer-free.
Grace Callwood: “I live my life thinking that things are going to work out well. There also are other young people who make differences so I wanted to try to be one.”
When the effects of cancer meant she couldn’t wear a lot of her own clothes any more, Grace started the “Threads of Hope” initiative to give new and gently used clothes to homeless children. She repurposed the gifts that she received as a “Make a Wish” recipient as the beginning of her own efforts to give to foster kids.
You can contact Grace Callwood through her church, Ames United Methodist, 112 Baltimore Pike, Bel Air, MD, 21014, phone 410-838-0161.
This story was first published on May 9, 2015. Media contact is Fran Walsh