STAMFORD, Conn. — Grace Targonsk, an eighth-grader at Dolan Middle School, is like most students. She texts (a lot!), goes to after-school guitar lessons, does her homework diligently (she's a straight A student) — and, oh yeah, started her own charitable foundation to help those affected by pediatric cancer.
This, despite not having a personal connection to the disease.
Since forming Caring with Grace in 2014, the Stamford resident gives presentations to raise awareness about the disease, holds fundraisers and events and works with a team on a summer lemonade stand.
Every September she travels to Washington D.C. to participate in events celebrating Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (rallies, festivals, candlelight vigils, etc.)
And, every May she goes to Capitol Hill as part of the Alliance for Childhood Cancer to talk to senators and all the representatives from Connecticut to talk about the STAR Act bill.
She admits Caring with Grace takes up a lot of time but she can't imagine doing anything else. "It's my mission," she said.
"Sometimes it means going to bed late or waking up early to finish assignments but it's worth it. Caring With Grace is something I absolutely love to do."
Last October, she created two programs that help children and families affected by cancer. One is a "Day of Kindness," which brings a moment of camaraderie to the families at the Ronald McDonald House of Charities of Connecticut.
Her first event was held Tuesday, March 7, at the Ronald McDonald House in New Haven, where Targonsk's team of volunteers and special guests brought gifts for the families, donations for the house, a chef to cook dinner, an artist to guide a group painting project, and a singer.
"It was a great night sharing and playing with the children at the house," she said.
The event is something she'd like to replicate and bring to area hospitals.
Her second new endeavor is "Painting With Grace," which offers art lessons to children for a fee, but that allows her to offer the same class to children affected by cancer and their siblings for free. The first of those programs ran this past October and December and she's gearing up for the spring sessions.
"I can't do this without the support of local artists that offered their talents to give the classes and the support of Chad Smith, owner of Pinot's Palette that offers his studio for this program," she said. The next event is scheduled for Thursday, April 20 and will run once a week for four weeks. It will alternate days and studio locations between Stamford and Norwalk.
Targonsk said she doesn't think folks need to be affected by something to do something about it.
"I may not have the same experience as many other advocates since most of them are affected by this disease in some way, but I'm still passionate about it," she said.
"When I give presentations or speeches I love knowing that I'm spreading awareness about a really important cause. Hearing stories about children and families that have suffered from cancer makes me want to help.
Added the 13-year-old: "I don't understand why research for childhood cancer doesn't have the funding it deserves.
"I'm usually quiet and shy around people. but I tend to speak up when I talk about childhood cancer. It's just something that's so important and I don't plan to stop until childhood cancer gets the attention it needs."
Go to www.caringwithgrace.org for more information.