On Grace Callwood’s 7th birthday, she was taken to her pediatrician in Abingdon out of concern for an enlarged lymph node behind her ear. About a week later, her mom discovered a large tumor on her inner thigh. Within a week, Grace saw a pediatric surgeon. It was a Tuesday. By Thursday, Grace and her family received a second opinion at Sinai Hospital. The chief of pediatric surgery strongly recommended Grace for immediate surgery to test the lump tissues. Grace underwent surgery on that Friday. By the next Monday, October 10, 2011, Grace was diagnosed with cancer; it had been detected in her lymph nodes and in her bone marrow.
The staff at Sinai were confident they would “melt this cancer.” And they did.
Grace completed chemotherapy for Stage IV Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in April 2014, and today, she is a healthy, vibrant and giving young woman.
Early in her cancer journey, she started the We Cancerve Movement, Inc., to bring happiness to homeless, critically-ill and hospitalized, and foster children – all children in sad situations through no fault of their own.
To date, We Cancerve has reached more than 25,000 children in Maryland, Delaware, Ohio and in India and Africa. Since 2015, she has granted nearly $10,000 in “Make Happiness Happen” and other microgrants to nonprofits that serve homeless, sick and/or foster children including Maryland’s Believe in Tomorrow Foundation, Children’s Cancer Foundation and Give Kids the World. She and her nonprofit’s all-youth board of advisors helped raised more than $26,000 for the We Cancerve Pediatric Patient Assistance Fund she created in 2016 at Sinai Hospital. The fund covers parking, gas cards, prescription copays, Uber rides and restaurant gift cards. The fund is also used to help young oncology patients with fertility treatment.
In 2020, she began serving pediatric oncology patients at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. They are among nine hospitals Grace’s nonprofit has supported through hospital child life departments since 2012.
We Cancerve is the first nonprofit in Harford County to offer a free, onsite day camp for homeless children; the first organization to create a free boutique for teen girls in foster care in the county; and hosts one of the largest giveaways of Easter goodies in area through its Eggstra Special Easter Bags-kits program.
What makes We Cancerve so innovate is its business model: projects are created and executed by youth between ages 8 and 18. They focus on delivering products and services not money to the children they serve.
“Our biggest milestone is the way we have piqued the interests of the youth in our community and have made service easy, fun and attainable for them. Youth groups reach out to us looking for opportunities to help. That’s a great position to be in,” said Callwood.
Her mother T’Jae Ellis said that in some ways, Grace’s experiences with the medical team at Sinai influenced her approach to leadership and building her leadership team.
“I quickly noticed her oncologist, Dr. Yoram Unguru, included my first-grade daughter in conversations about her care and created a safe space for her to ask questions about her treatment and prognosis. I loved that he honored her voice in her own journey and I’ve appreciated how much the entire pediatric oncology staff invited Grace’s participation in her own care. That’s what she’s doing in We Cancerve; her programs include the voices of those she serves.”
Grace, and her mother T’Jae Ellis, offered their heartbreaking and inspiring story for the 2019 CCF Video. CCF was delighted that Grace and her mom were also able to join us for the 2019 CCF Gala, where Grace surprised CCF with her nonprofit’s own donation to CCF.
Grace was named in The Baltimore Sun’s 25 Women to Watch list in 2020 and featured by the Walton Family Foundation in 2022.