By Brenda L. Holmes
DANVILLE — Grace Bennett, a first-grader at Danville North Elementary School, may just be the youngest philanthropist around. She’s raising funds for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and telling her story of survival at this year’s Ride for Kids event.
Last year, Grace took part in the ride, a fundraiser for the foundation. What makes this motorcycle event special is that children with brain tumors are invited along for the ride.
Grace’s mother, Stephanie Bennett, said last year’s ride had a big impact on her daughter.
“Well, you just never really know what’s going to come out of Grace’s mouth,” she said. “Last year, she was one of their Star Kids and got up to speak to the crowd. Most of the kids were pretty quiet. When Gracie spoke she said, ‘that helmet was killing my brain tumor!’ because it was so heavy for her to wear.
“Everybody is pretty anxious about what she’s going to say this year. She will be riding again this weekend.”
In February 2010, Grace was diagnosed with Oligoastrocytoma, a brain tumor.
“Her last MRI showed that the mass was still there, but that it was stable and had not grown,” Bennett said. “So she’ll continue to be off of chemo and will have another scan in November.”
The Ride for Kids is Sept. 9 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and includes one lap around the historic track before the bikes head out. Registration begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 9:45 a.m. The escorted ride will roll out at 10 a.m., rain or shine, and the riders will loop back to the starting point.
The minimum donation to ride is $35 but participants are encouraged to raise as much money as possible for the foundation.
After a light lunch, participants will enjoy a Celebration of Life program that features interviews with young brain tumor survivors — these are the Ride for Kids “Stars” — like Grace.
Grace has her own fundraising page and has set a goal of raising $5,000. She is more than half-way there with just over $3,300 raised.
She’s been raising money through several events.
“The main one was at Pizza King in Mooresville,” Bennett said. “We had events there every Friday during the month of August. Then we also had a benefit concert by Sunrise Studios at Avon-Washington Township Park.”
Bennett said her daughter even performed at that event.
“She sang a song called, ‘Angel By Your Side,’ by Francesca Battistelli,” she said. “It was a tear jerker, of course. I was a blubbering mess because she said, ‘this is for my mom who has always been by my side.’”
Grace emptied her own piggy bank to donate to a friend’s fundraising page for the Ride for Kids — Tori McQueen. She’s the sister of one of Grace’s best friends, Brianna “Princess Bri” McQueen, who died March 21 after losing her battle with cancer.
Those who would like to donate to the PBTF and help Grace meet her goal are asked to visit her page online at http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/gracebennett/2012-indianapolis-ride-for-kids.