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Cancer isn’t resting, neither are Caroline and Grace

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Carolina Cook, left, and Grace Brown are part of a team of high school students raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Lee Benson

PARK CITY — The list of things the coronavirus has put on hold, shut down, curtailed, suspended, canceled, disbanded and kicked to the curb is extensive.

     But there’s one thing it hasn’t stopped: Cancer.

     Wait, make that two things: It also hasn’t stopped cancer fighters.

     In Park City, where schools, restaurants, gyms, libraries and even ski lifts are shuttered, that means Caroline Cook and Grace Brown are as open for business as ever.

     Caroline and Grace are part of a 10-person team of high school kids participating in a competition to see who can raise the most money in the annual Students of the Year contest sponsored by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America.

     Every year, local chapters of the LLS host these high school competitions all around the country, raising millions for cancer research in the process.

     Members of the winning team are proclaimed Students of the Year. But, really, aren’t they all students of the year?

     Take Caroline and Grace, for example. I found out about their campaign when they sent me a fundraising email, explaining what they were doing and why they were doing it.

     It began when their classmate Christine Fischer called and asked if they’d join the team of students she was putting together for the contest.

     They said yes for the simple reason that Christine is their friend. At first they paid little attention to the cause they would be supporting.

     But that didn’t last long.

     “When I started writing my fundraising letters I quickly realized how many connections to cancer I have,” said Caroline.

     Her grandfather is a three-time survivor of lymphoma – he’s been cancer-free since 2010 – and her aunt is currently battling breast and ovarian cancer.

     Grace’s connections also ran close to home. Her grandmother and an aunt both died of cancer.

     These family connections suddenly made it personal for both girls.

     “They made it meaningful,” said Grace. “They became our motivator.”

     For the past six weeks, in addition to emailing anyone and everyone they know, they’ve been doing bake sales and dollar dashes – where they advertise goodies on social media and make house deliveries – as well as hosting a concert at a restaurant on Main Street.

     Now, with the coronavirus shutting down school and sports – Grace runs track and Caroline is on the golf team – it’s given them even more time to continue to solicit online and “put the fun in fundraising.”

     The goal of their team is to raise $50,000. They are already more than two-thirds of the way there.

     “When I first heard what our goal was I was in shock, doubting we could ever reach that,” said Grace. “But what you don’t realize is how generous people are.”

     “It’s really stretched my perspective on how much people are willing to give,” said Caroline. 

     It’s also been an eye-opener to just how many people have their own personal connections to cancer.

     “So many people have talked to us about a family member who has had leukemia or some other form of cancer,” said Caroline.

     The Students of the Year campaign will culminate with an honors ceremony in May. All the while, the Park City team – they call themselves Answer For Cancer – is inching nearer and nearer their goal.

     Will they win the contest?

     Grace and Caroline shrug their shoulders.

     “No idea,” they say.

     If they do win, what will be their prize?

     Another shrug.

     So this, then, is what cancer fighters look like: two smiling, high-energy 17-year-old girls who aren’t doing it for the glory, but because it’s a fight worth fighting, and right now they have plenty of time on their hands because of another health scare that’s giving society a run for its money.

     You can reach out to them at their fundraising pages: events.lls.org/ut/saltlakesoy20/ccookt and events.lls.org/ut/saltlakesoy20/gbrown. Rest assured they will answer your call.