2019 YOUTH AWARD
Founder, The We Cancerve Movement
Maryland, United States
Some people are born into this world to serve others. Grace Callwood is undoubtedly one of them.
When she was two years old, Grace asked her family to donate a red wagon to the pediatric unit at the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center after a brief hospitalization. For her third birthday party, she asked guests to bring toys and games in lieu of presents so she could donate them to children in the hospital. At the age of four, she and her family traveled to Louisiana to donate food items to a relief organization for Hurricane Katrina. That same year, she asked guests to bring non-perishable food items to her birthday party after learning the Maryland Food Bank was low on supplies.
Grace’s life was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of seven. But her spirit and desire to serve other children couldn’t be broken. In the midst of early cancer treatments, she heard about a local family with two little girls who had lost their home in a fire and were left with nothing. Grace decided to give them her all of her new back-to-school clothes. After all, being diagnosed with cancer meant she wasn’t able to attend school, and she didn’t want her clothes to be wasted.
That same year in 2012, Grace founded The We Cancerve Movement to create ongoing giving opportunities to bring happiness and hope to sick, homeless and foster children. The organization is led by an all-youth board ages 8 to 18 and was founded on the belief that love is active, strong, urgent and practical. The solutions and programs provided by We Cancerve are swift and nimble because Grace believes that happiness shouldn’t have to wait.
We Cancerve has established a variety of successful youth-created programs to serve children in Baltimore and the surrounding communities. Camp Happy is an annual summer enrichment program that offers a full week of activities, outdoor adventures, field trips and more free of charge for two Maryland-based homes for foster and homeless children. Within one of the foster homes, Grace created La Magnifique Boutique, a storage-room-turned-clothing-store that provides a free full-service shopping experience for girls who need clothes, coats, shoes and socks; fun accessories like jewelry or handbags; and even basics like pajamas. The Boutique is replenished quarterly with new inventory fit with the seasons and to ensure there is always an available supply of clothing.
Threads of Hope was created to continue Grace’s original idea of providing homeless children with back-to-school clothing. Each year, We Cancerve spearheads an initiative to ensure that children living in one of the local homeless shelters have new clothing to start school. Their Breakfast Bags Bonanza provides homeless children at 10 shelters and several local feeding ministries with free bags of non-perishable food items like dry cereal, shelf-sustaining non-dairy milk and granola bars during Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays—a time when children often go without food because they do not receive regular meals provided at school.
Other We Cancerve programs focus on support for children in the midst of treatment for pediatric cancer or other illnesses that require long hospital stays. The organization’s Beach in a Bucket program gives children the chance to throw a beach party in their hospital room—a fun activity she and her mom did together to brighten her day while she was undergoing treatment. Their Books & Buddies program brings stuffed animals and new books to children in the hospital, and their TransFUNers Kits provide children with a creative way to decorate their infusion poles and transfusion bags to make them less scary.
Through all of their programs, We Cancerve has brought happiness to more than 14,000 children. They have donated more than $65,000 in cash grants and in-kind donations to nine hospitals, 10 homeless shelters, local food banks, three foster care group homes and three orphanages in Africa.
Today, Grace is 15 years old and recently started her freshman year of high school. She was accepted to the International Baccalaureate program where she will focus on global studies to pursue her desire to change the world for others, and she enjoys playing the trumpet and French horn in the school band. Most importantly, Grace completed her final chemotherapy treatment in April 2014 and remains cancer free.