AVON — Maeci Young and Gracie Bennett, two local Make-A-Wish kids, are once again raising funds for other children’s wishes. The two little fighters have big hearts.
Maeci, 12, of Danville, and Gracie, 5, of Avon, met and became fast friends while they were both receiving chemotherapy treatments at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.
Maeci is the daughter of Keli and Jay Young and Gracie is the daughter of Chris and Stephanie Bennett. In February 2010, Gracie was diagnosed with Oligoastrocytoma, a brain tumor. Maeci was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in April 2010.
The girls and their families had become close friends and ended up taking their Make-A-Wish trip together to Disney World.
Maeci has now been cancer free for more than a year and Gracie just received word that her tumor condition is stable.
“She will get her port out, which is a big relief,” Stephanie Bennett said. “When the port is in, there is a much greater risk of infection. Being able to take it out for three months is wonderful.”
Bennett said Gracie will be able to swim and play this summer with less worry. She will then have another MRI in August to see how her tumor is doing.
“Maeci really has become a big sister to Grace,” Bennett said. “Maeci is now old enough to baby sit Gracie and tries to encourage her. It’s so good to have her around.”
The families dedicate time and effort to raise funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant more wishes for children suffering from severe or life threatening illnesses.
The Maeci & Gracie’s Give Back A Wish Softball Tournament is May 19 and 20 at Avon Softball Park, 104 S. C.R. 625 E., Avon. The event will begin at 8 a.m. May 19.
Last year, the girls hosted the first tournament in hopes of granting a wish for another local child. They ended up raising $13,000, which was enough to grant two wishes.
They granted wishes for Wish Child Charla, 5. She lives in Westfield and traveled to Walt Disney World.
The second Wish Child to receive her wish was Brianna “Princess Bri” McQueen. Her wish was granted Nov. 10, 2011, at the WZPL Radio-A-Thon.
McQueen also had a brain tumor and had become good friends with Bennett during chemotherapy treatments.
“The girls would actually share a bed together,” Bennett said. “Gracie seemed to have a calming effect on Bri. She was anxious during her treatments, so Grace would stay with her until her treatments were over.”
Bri lost her battle with cancer and died March 21.
Gracie and Maeci decided to dedicate this year’s tournament in “Princess Bri’s” memory.
“Bri touched a lot of people’s lives,” Bennett said. “She and Gracie were best buddies and she wants to celebrate her life.”
Bri will be featured during the opening ceremonies at the tournament. Her parents, Steve and Angie McQueen of Mooresville, will both be participating in the event.
“Angie is actually playing and I told them I would work all day doing whatever they need,” said Steve McQueen. “The community and the friends we made at Riley have really stepped up. We’ve been overwhelmed by the support. It’s been amazing.”
He said the Make-A-Wish trip was a once-in-a-lifetime event that his family will never forget.
“And it was not only Disney,” McQueen said. “The place we stayed at was called Give Kids the World. It was a resort on its own. Everything was geared toward kids.”
The McQueens are planning to go back to serve as volunteers for the Make-A-Wish program.
“At some point, we want to be able to give back,” he said.
This year’s goal is to raise $18,000.
Wish Child Kia, 9, will be benefiting from this year’s event.
There is also another opportunity to donate to Maeci & Gracie Give Back A Wish. On May 18, Buffalo Wild Wings in Plainfield will host a benefit. Customers who present a dining ticket will have 10 percent of their bill donated for the cause.
The dining tickets are available on the website www.maeciandgracie.com. There is also more information available on the softball tournament on the website.