As a little girl growing up in the mountains of Virginia, Grace Ruble decided that she wanted something very special for her 16th birthday.
A television commercial about St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital that Grace saw when she was 9 made such an impact on her that she resolved to mark her 16th birthday by giving toys to the children being treated at St. Jude. “That was my birthday wish, and my mom and dad and community and friends all made sure it came true,” Grace said.
She and her family — including her parents, grandparents and sister — recently made the 12-hour drive from their home in Bluefield, Virginia, to Memphis, where they delivered half a van-load of toys and more than $6,000 raised by Grace’s family and community. And they did it on her 16th birthday.
“This is something she has wanted to do for years,” said her father, Billy Ruble. “We finally got it all to come together.”
A sophomore at Graham High School in Bluefield, Grace plays volleyball and plans to be a lawyer when she grows up. She said she's grateful to everyone who made her birthday wish come true and hopes to continue supporting St. Jude in college through the collegiate fundraising program, Up ‘Til Dawn.
To encourage contributions before the trip, the family hosted a pig roast and cookout that featured local musical entertainment. People donated toys at the event and at other locations around Bluefield, which has a population of about 5,400.
Grace, center, with her friends at a pig roast and cookout she hosted to benefit St. Jude.
After years of waiting and planning to visit St. Jude, Grace was very excited to see the hospital. “It was more than what I expected,” she said. “All the artwork on the walls and everything so bright and everybody looked happy.”
During her tour, Grace found the ABC’s of Cancer Wall especially moving. This display of 26 pieces of art work, created by St. Jude patients, offers different perspectives on living with cancer. In this alphabet, H is for hope, G is for getting medicine and W is for warrior.
“That made me cry,” Grace said. “It touched my heart.”
If you want to share your birthday with the kids of St. Jude, visit Birthdays for St. Jude to learn more.