North Huntingdon girl's legacy alive through 'Race for Grace'
A North Huntingdon Township girl's memory lives on through a race against cancer.
Five-year-old Grace Elizabeth Ekis died on Feb. 14, 2008, from diffuse intrinsic potine glioma, a rare non-curable form of pediatric brain cancer that caused an inoperable tumor in her brain stem.
Reflections of Grace Foundation was formed that year by Grace's parents, Brian and Tamara Ekis, to raise money to offer support to families going through similar situations. Grace participated in the first race in 2007.
Norwin High School will host the sixth annual Race For Grace on Saturday. Opening activities start at 7 a.m. and the race begins at 9.
“We've seen it grow enormously over the past six years,” said race director Ashley Metz Leax. “I expect it to be another memorable day, a day for us to remember Grace and honor her legacy. It gets emotional and tough to talk without crying. This is our largest fundraiser of the year.”
The foundation has been able to give $159,000 across 26 states directly to 109 families of children fighting brain cancer. In addition, $105,000 has been donated/pledged toward research grants to find a cure and to raise awareness for pediatric brain cancers.
“I do think it's humbling to know she has touched so many lives and continues to touch people,” Tamara Ekis said. “I think (helping families) becomes our main driving force at this point. I think that you have a hope for what it can become. I think we are still surprised at the continuing support that we get.”
“We never want to be in a situation where a family comes to us needing financial support, and fills out our grant application, and for us to have to say, ‘No. Sorry, we don't have enough funding to help you,'” Leax said. “We have never turned a family down, and we're very blessed that we have been able to help so many. That is our goal, to be able to help families in this same situation and to never have to turn them away.”
Last year's race raised approximately $101,000 and attracted an estimated 2,900 people.
Leax said she hopes to exceed those numbers this year, and emotion pours out of the family and volunteers as race day draws closer.
“I think that the event days don't necessarily become easy,” Tamara Ekis said.
“I would much rather trade all of this if (Grace) would just be here with us,” said Leax. “That's not what our reality is. Instead, we just try to honor her and give to her and give to others as she so graciously did.”
There are some 1,800 racers already signed up for the event. People who wish to register can do so at Circleville Volunteer Fire Department at 129 Robbins Station Road in North Huntingdon Township today from 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Those who have already registered can pick up their race bags and T-shirts at the fire hall.
Online registration has closed. Participants can sign up on race day from 7-8 a.m.
WTAE TV's Mike Clark returns as emcee. Mikey and Big Bob from 96.1 KISS FM Morning Freak Show will be in attendance.
Registrants can run or walk the 5K or walk the 1 mile course. The 5K run will be timed using state-of-the-art, disposable D-tag chip technology.
After the race, children and families can take part in activities including games, crafts, face and nail paintings, dance performances, Chinese and silent auctions, and charitable hair donations. Majority Rules is set to perform.
Festivities are scheduled to conclude around 1 p.m. following an awards ceremony.
Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- McKeesport Area students share views during Black History Month panel talk
- White Oak seeks funds to stabilize road
- Crowd demands answers from Steel Valley directors over playoff eligibility controversy
- Steel Valley to post teacher, administrator salaries online
- Munhall resident pleads guilty but mentally ill for killing his mother
- McKeesport incident among derailments that prompt Casey to push ‘crude-by-rail’ rule
- Duquesne Elementary School students join the ranks of junior constables
- Public comment policy varies in Mon Valley school districts
- Clairton City School District seeks savings in food service management
- Allegheny County Airport set for $4M sidewalk, parking lot upgrade
- Fatal West Mifflin dog attack recalls similar 2012 McKeesport incident