In early 2014, the Cornwall, Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, and Prescott-Russell areas united in a monumental way to support a young mother and teacher, Stephanie Grady, in her battle against a rare and aggressive form of cancer called NUT Midline Carcinoma (NMC); through the, “We’re NUT Givin’ Up” campaign.

At the time, Stephanie’s only hope in overcoming this often fatal form of cancer came from an experimental drug called BET Inhibitor. This drug, known to slow and sometimes even stop tumour growth, was discovered through the International NUT Midline Carcinoma Registry; and is being administered at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA.

Recognizing OHIP doesn’t cover the cost of such trials, and the astronomical expense of health care costs in the USA, friends and family members rapidly formed “Team Grady”, organizing a variety of diverse and engaging fundraising activities to support the family; both emotionally and financially.

“It was the genuine, giving, and humble nature of Stephanie’s character which saw the campaign garner so much momentum,” said Heather Lisney, campaign coordinator.

Individuals and communities from across Ontario and the Maritimes organized a variety of fundraising events – all of which reflected the virtues of Stephanie and her family. Activities included: Breakfasts, brunches and dinners; silent and live auctions; dodgeball, hockey, volleyball and basketball tournaments; pub nights with live entertainment; and Zumba, scrapbooking, painting and gymnastics opportunities. 

Over 28 public and catholic schools from the region were involved, with teachers and students organizing events from dress-down days, to pancake breakfasts, dances and hockey pools.

Due to the urgent need for treatment, and the incredibly overwhelming generosity of those involved, in just 12 weeks the campaign raised more than $200,000.

“Stephanie was an inspiration to so many,” said Lisney. “Her fighting spirit, combined with her cheeky humour and humility throughout the battle, were qualities to be admired. She didn’t want to ask for help, but she knew she would need support. Her family meant everything to her, and she wanted to know she did everything she could to fight – and she did.”

While the support from the community allowed Stephanie to get to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for preliminary testing in early May, the rapid progression of the disease following her return prevented her from starting treatment. 

Just hours before the scheduled flight to return to Boston, Stephanie and her family received information from doctors; who suggested pursuing treatment would not be in her best interests.

“Many people wondered why Stephanie didn’t go earlier. It really wasn’t up to her. If it was, she would have been there in a heartbeat. It was the unfortunate reality of experimental treatment which prevented an earlier start. Doctors in Boston were waiting to clear different potency-dose-ratio levels for the clinical trial, and suggested Stephanie wait until the stronger drug was approved and available for her to take.”

Stephanie passed away peacefully at her home just four days later.

In addition to establishing educational savings plans for the Grady children; Stephanie’s husband, Nick Grady, in consultation with Stephanie’s parents and those affiliated with the campaign; has decided to donate funds back to the community, in ways that honour Stephanie’s legacy.

“It is our honour to give back and to provide inspiration for others, in ways that reflected the strength of the campaign as well as Stephanie’s character,” said Grady. “The community was so generous, and we can’t thank them enough for giving us the courage, and opportunity, to fight. It’s our hope that we can thank those who contributed, and support others who may be enduring similar challenges.”

In addition to establishing a Memorial Educational Pavilion in Stephanie’s honour at Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary (UCMBS); funds will also be used to support the Canadian Cancer Society’s Wheels of Hope program in the SDG & Prescott-Russell areas, to fund new equipment for the Cornwall Community Hospital’s new chemotherapy wing, to support Winchester District Memorial and Ottawa General Hospitals, and to establish an employee illness relief program for UCDSB staff members.

Annual bursaries will also be established at Rothwell-Osnabruck High School and Charlottetown Rural High School in PEI, and through some of the local churches that contributed so much. 

Grady is also working with local hockey organizations to facilitate opportunities for more children to participate, and is considering other options to “pay it forward” in Stephanie’s memory.

Stephanie’s family, along with Team Grady members, would like to thank all those who contributed by inviting them to join the Memorial Pavilion Dedication and Thank-You BBQ, at Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary (UCMBS), on Sunday, October 26th from 2 – 4 p.m.

For more information about Stephanie’s story, the campaign, the Pavilion Dedication & Thank You BBQ, or about ways the Grady family is giving back; please visit www.gradyfund.com, www.facebook.com/werenutgivinup, @NUTGivinUp or contact Heather Lisney at 343-264-6197.

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