Written by Cory Twibell: firstname.lastname@example.org Thursday, 31 May 2012 00:00
Blessed with two beautiful daughters – a pair so precious you could swear you’ve seen them as a stock photograph in a picture frame – a sour reality overcame the Sweet family when Gracie experienced seizure-like episodes on June 21, 2010, while visiting family near Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, where doctors soon revealed that Gracie had an inoperable brain tumor, classified as an optic pathway glioma.
In the two years since the diagnosis, Gracie’s been as active as any 2-year-old, her parents say. She loves to chat and listen to animal sounds. Unlike most 2-year-olds, Gracie just finished her first set of chemotherapy treatments. Due to the location of the tumor and type, surgical removal is impossible, Gracie’s doctors said.
“She’s actually doing pretty well. She just finished her first phase of chemotherapy, which is the induction phase. She gets treatment once a week for 10 weeks and then she gets two weeks off. During that two-week break she had an MRI, the first one since we started treatment, and it showed that there was a pretty significant reduction in the size of the tumor,” said Gracie’s father, PJ, who added that the news from her doctors at D.C. Children’s Hospital was delivered at a special time.
“The doctors were all so excited about the results, they all called us and emailed us right away. It was the Friday before Mother’s Day so you can only imagine how it made the weekend a lot better. We’re very excited,” PJ said.
With two golf outings and a 5K race held in Virginia that have raised money to offset the Sweet’s medical bills, the Carle Place community and school district (where Gracie’s grandmother, Wendy Tucker, has worked as an aide for nearly a decade) has rallied behind the Sweet family and contributed with many fundraising events of their own, ranging from car washes to garage sales to a battle of the bands night.
JP Colligan, a Carle Place grad and son of the school’s longtime athletic director Jim Colligan, created a Facebook page called “Gracie Pool” that now has 250 followers who donate money to participate in football and basketball pools each season. The group donated upwards of $1,000 to the Sweet family following an NCAA Basketball bracket pool in 2011.
“To tell you the truth, the support has been incredible. We obviously can’t get through stuff like this without everybody helping out and the money that’s been raised has been a huge help.
“We haven’t had to worry about medical bills at all for a pretty long time and as they continue doing these events and outings, we’re going to start donating money to foundations to try to help others who are in need as well,” PJ said, who noted the National Brain Tumor Society as a possible foundation.
The fundraising effort continues on June 11 as the Rushmore Avenue School Student Council, staff and school art teacher Kara Stobe have organized a night of family fun based on the new children’s book, Jenna Boo. Darren Sardelli (laughalotpoetry.com) is the author of Jenna Boo while Stobe provided the illustrations, which feature a new character in support of the Sweet family, naturally called Gracie Boo.
“The school system over at Carle Place has done a ton of stuff for us. There’s a bunch of groups that have helped us through the Carle Place community. It’s been fantastic,” PJ said.
Jenna Boo carries a theme that reminds young children to “Love What You Boo” and the book uses art as a platform to inspire children to tap into their creativity. Stobe said creating the message of Jenna Boo is her “passion and life’s purpose” and knows she can “bring happiness to the lives of children through Jenna.”
With a donation of $20, each family will receive an autographed copy of the book and a Jenna Boo T-shirt, which children can color at the event. Healthy snacks and drinks and raffles will also be available for purchase at the event, which starts at 6:30 p.m. at Rushmore Avenue School.
“Through Jenna Boo, this event creates school-wide spirit and children are able to see how one idea can bring an entire community together. Mrs. Stobe’s launch party will foster the spirit of learning and create the belief that anything is possible. Miracles can happen,” a representative of the Rushmore Student Council described on a community-issued flier.
“Never in a million years did we ever think we would be challenged as we are now, but this is not a challenge for the four of us, it is one that will be faced by thousands. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your interest in our daughter, Gracie, and the path that has been laid out before her and most of all for your prayers and support,” the Sweets said on their website.