“Amazing Grace.” No nickname could better describe Gracie Bennett. This bubbly and energetic 11-year-old has already faced more obstacles than most people do in a lifetime but you would never know it. “Gracie is a motivator”, said her mother Stephanie Bennett. “She inspires everyone she meets to be better every single day.”
Gracie was only three years old when the family learned she had a brain tumor—a grade two oligoastrocytoma. Gracie had surgery and began chemotherapy at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. At the same time, her grandmother was going through chemo for stage four colon cancer. “Nana helped me through”, said Grace. When seizures persisted, she saw Riley Pediatric Neurosurgeon Jodi Smith. “Grace was so scared she hid under the table,” said Stephanie. “When Dr. Smith came in, she crawled under with her and talked with her.”
Dr. Smith was eventually able to remove the entire tumor in 2014. “Despite three brain surgeries and chemo, Grace has never let her medical problems hold her back from anything, including playing softball,” said Dr. Smith.
Grace never forgets the road now behind her. “I do a lot for Riley because they saved my life”, she said. “A lot” is an understatement. Families arriving at Riley Hospital are greeted by Gracie’s warm and calming presence along with her Riley friend and Maeci Young in the hospital tour video that is played in the lobby. The girls have raised $100,000 for Make a Wish Foundation, granting 18 wishes to other seriously ill children. Gracie has hosted the Butler University Riley Dance Marathon and served as the Ambassador for the 2015 Riley Miracle Ride— and she’s not even close to done yet.
“Riley gave me hope”, Gracie said with a smile. “I’m just giving some of it back.”