Just the facts
WHAT:Maeci & Gracie’s Give Back A Wish Softball Tournament
WHERE:Avon Softball Park
Two local Make-a-Wish children have decided to grant a wish to another child by raising funds with Maeci & Gracie’s Give Back A Wish Softball Tournament.
Maeci Young, 11, of Danville, and Gracie Bennett, 4, 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.
“It was May 18 and my sister had come to chemo with us because we were having birthday cake,” Stephanie Bennett said. “My sister went over to talk to Jay because she knew him from the softball fields. I went over to let her know that the cake was ready and she introduced us. That’s when I realized we had been praying for Maeci, but didn’t know them.”
Bennett said Keli Young then said, “We’ve been praying for Gracie since February.”
The Youngs ended up sharing in the birthday festivities with the Bennetts and the families have been inseparable since.
“From that moment on, we were together,” Bennett said. “Every Tuesday we had chemo together and the girls’ friendship blossomed from there. They are really more like sisters than friends now.”
She said people have been interested in how two girls with such a big age difference could be so close.
“But Gracie really does act a lot older than 4,” she said “And they share a bond because they’ve had the same experiences.”
The families just live 10 minutes apart and the mothers have also become dear friends.
“Maeci had had her wish granted by Make-a-Wish and was going to Disney World,” Bennett said. “They asked if Gracie had had her’s granted yet, and we had not even looked into it.”
The Bennett family worked with their social worker and learned that Gracie would also be able to have a wish granted.
“We asked her what she would like to do for her wish and she said she wanted to go to Disney World with Maeci,” she said. “But they were leaving in three weeks and the Make-a-Wish people said they didn’t know if they could make it happen — but they did. We got to go on the same flight and stayed in the same villa.”
The two families had the time of their lives in Florida.
“While we were on the trip I said to Keli and Jay that we need to do something to sponsor another child,” Bennett said. “That’s when we decided we were going to do this tournament. The girls decided they wanted to give their wish back to someone else.”
The families said this is the inaugural softball tournament, but they’re hoping there will be many more to come. It will be May 14 at Avon Softball Park.
So far they have 20 teams signed up to play. To participate, teams need to make a $200 donation. There will also be a silent auction to help raise the $6,000 needed to grant another wish.
They will be sponsoring a trip for a child named Charla with heart failure. They are hoping she will be at the tournament to meet those who participate. Her wish is also to visit Disney World.
“God’s hand has really been in all of this,” Bennett said. “There was a reason for us to meet and a reason for our girls to meet.”
Maeci has completed her treatments and was declared cancer free a short time ago. She is currently returning for check ups every three months.
Gracie continues her long treatment plan. She is entering her second year of chemotherapy.
“We have 39 more to go,” Bennett said. “We go every week.”
She said she gathers strength from her 4-year-old daughter.
“Sometimes when I think that ‘I can’t do this’ or that ‘this is crazy,’ you realize you’re a mom and you have to move forward,” Bennett said. “Grace is my rock. Every day, even if it’s raining, she says, ‘It’s a beautiful day mom.’”
One hundred percent of the funds raised from the softball tournament will be given to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Ohio, Kentucky & Indiana — Indiana Region.
For more information, call Jay Young at 363-8954 or Stephanie Bennett at 727-5489. Information is also available online at http://www.maeciandgracie.com/category/softball-tournament/ .