STAMFORD, Conn. -- Three years ago, Stamford’s Grace Targonski watched her aunt fight a long battle with cancer. It motivated the teenager to turn her attention to helping children facing a similar challenge.
Targonski, 13 and an 8th-grader at Dolan Middle School, created “Caring with Grace.” The organization conducts events such as bake sales and art and crafts projects, and the proceeds are turned over to organizations that support children with cancer. Last weekend, Targonski and friends worked for four hours to make 64 Valentine's Day cards for children fighting cancer, and they were delivered on Tuesday.
“We send packages of what they want like ninja turtles and customize it,’’ Targonski said. “We get send shout outs, meet new people and send donations to hospitals and send it to their house by mail.”
Targonski said her aunt’s cancer battle motivated her to take on the project. “My aunt was diagnosed with cancer and through charity work, I found out the children got cancer and they weren’t getting a lot of treatment because of money,’’ she said.
Through research, Grace found out alarming statistics relating to childhood cancer and started her organization. Her influence has even reached Washington, where she met government officials, including Connecticut Congressman Jim Himes, to push for legislation to increase funding for programs that support children with cancer.
“I’m trying to get an act that gives children with cancer more funding because now there is only 3.8 percent funding for children with cancer and adults have more than children, so we’re trying to raise up funding,’’ Grace said.
Targonski said childhood cancer programs don’t receive as much funding as other groups because of a lack of awareness. “People recognize the pink ribbon for breast cancer, and don’t know the gold ribbon is childhood cancer, which is why it needs more attention,’’ she said.
In her crusade against childhood cancer, Targanski said fundraising has been her biggest challenge. , “It’s hard to get fundraising started and it’s more difficult in middle school,’’ she said. “It hasn’t been impossible but needs more work.”
Targonski, who enjoys playing soccer, volleyball, drawing, and many other activities, is not easily distracted and prioritizes the commitment, the value, and importance of childhood cancer. It’s because of her maturity that she acknowledges the bigger picture when choosing her cause over some events because of her devotion to childhood cancer.
“There may be some parties, but I do Caring with Grace instead because I’m committed,’’ Targonski said. She hopes that her project will eventually grow into a nonprofit organization. “I hope it becomes a nonprofit because of its benefits,’’ Targonski said. “It would be more easily recognized and easier for funding.” Additionally, she hopes that more children get involved with Caring with Grace.
Later on down the line, she sees her future as potentially becoming a microbiologist and being involved in a science program. Her interest in biology stems from her participation in Caring with Grace and learning about cancer.
“I liked learning about cancer cells,’’ Grace said. “I wouldn’t have reacted the same if I hadn’t worked with childhood cancer.”
For more information about Caring With Grace, click here to visit its Facebook page.
Tena-Lesly Reid is a high school student at Academy of Information, Technology and Engineering in Stamford.