Although she was only four years old when her cousin Kent passed on, Graci Graves has fond memories of their time spent together at family get-togethers. Sadly, Kent lost his fight against T-cell Leukemia when he was just 16. In the 11 years since then, strides have been made toward more effective treatments. Graves is participating in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) Student of the Year program to raise money for continued research to not only improve the quality of life of patients but also to find a cure for leukemia, lymphoma and Hodgkin’s disease.
“Although I didn’t know him well, I remember he gave me piggy-back rides,” Graves says. “He is the reason I decided to participate in the LLS Student of the Year program.”
Graves, a sophomore at Carmel High School, applied for and was accepted into the ambitious initiative which, besides raising funds, also develops leadership skills. She is one of 22 area students selected on the basis of prior participation in philanthropic endeavors and overall character. From January 24 to March 16, Graves will be a project manager for several varied fundraisers. Each dollar raised at events, donations to her fundraising page and sales of a very special T-shirt count as a vote toward the title of Student of the Year.
“We are selling $10 T-shirts at each event and on my page,” she says. “The front of the shirt has a Superman type logo with a capital ‘K’. Kent’s nickname was ‘Superman’ since he was full of energy. On the back is something Kent always said — ‘Don’t yuck my wow.’ It means don’t tell me I can’t do it.”
Graves has a campaign team of friends and family that are assisting her with fundraising events. On February 5, Urban Vines Winery and Brewery in Westfield is hosting a night of Purse Bingo. Admission is $45 and designer purses will be prizes at the activity which runs from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. On February 27, patrons can participate in Dine to Donate from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. by mentioning Graves at the Dairy Queen on Rangeline Road in Carmel. The establishment will donate 20 percent of their sales. Also, Kent’s mother is facilitating a 12-hour scrapbooking session in a huge Valparaiso barn on March 9.
The campaign closes with a charity gala held on March 16 at Crane Bay in Indianapolis. Tickets are $75 or tables of 10 are available for $750. Five hundred attendees are anticipated to be on hand. Each Student of the Year enlists the assistance of their campaign team to secure sizable silent auction items such as spa packages and weeklong stays at exotic vacation destinations. At the conclusion of the silent auction, the LLS Student of the Year will be announced.
“I was on a campaign team last year and it was really helpful to prepare me for this,” Graves says. “When I was building my own team, a lot of people said no. But the people who said yes have stepped up, and I’m hopeful we can raise a good amount of money for LLS.”
For more information on fundraising events, T-shirt purchasing or to donate to Graves’ campaign, visit Events.LLS.org/In/IndianaSOY19/GGraves.