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Molalla's 2017 Amazing Kid: Teen's courage, compassion help others

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Grace Walburn-Jones continues to fight cancer nine years after winning her own battle.

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS  - Grace Walburn-Jones, a 15-year-old sophomore at Molalla High School, is the Molalla Pioneer's 2017 Amazing Kid.

What does it mean to be an Amazing Kid?

Qualities that come to mind include selflessness, courage, compassion, and ambition.

Grace Walburn-Jones embodies these characteristics at a deep level.

Grace, 15, is a sophomore at Molalla High School who recently celebrated her ninth year cancer-free. She was diagnosed with leukemia when she was five years old and beat the disease a year later on February 27, 2008.

And while she showed incredible bravery as she fought her leukemia under the care of St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, she showed an even greater level of love and selflessness when her mother, Heather, was diagnosed with cancer in 2009.

The news didn't throw any sort of rift in their relationship; if anything, it did the opposite. Grace hardly left her mother's side throughout Heather's bout, and their bond was vastly strengthened because of it.

"She went through everything with me because she knew what it was like, and she never wanted me to be alone," Heather says. "She went as far as shaving her head because I had lost my hair; we are talking about a nine-year-old kid that is in school and will be made fun of but doesn't care."

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS  - Grace Walburn-Jones poses for a photo with homemade photo boards made by her mother, Heather. The boards show a collection of photos, memories, and achievements throughout Grace's life.

Grace talks about how going through it together strengthened their bond not just as mother and daughter, but also as close friends.

"You never know how long you're going to have here, and so when you get told you have cancer … you've got to squeeze as much out of life as you can," Grace says.

And while Grace's bout with cancer is over, she continues to fight the disease by volunteering her time to raise money for St. Jude's.

Grace began selling "Team Amazing Grace" t-shirts five years ago to raise money. Since then, she has raised over $5,000. She and her mother originally made the shirts to wear for the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer, but they caught on and now Grace continues to sell her shirts at events they attend.

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS  - Grace (left) and her mother, Heather, hold up a check from 99.9 FM KRKT for $123,219 made out to St. Jude's Childrens Research Hospital, in which Grace went on the air for a radiothon to tell her story in an effort to raise money for the hospital that helped save her life.

Grace also participates in St. Jude's Radiothons, where she goes on the air and tells her story in an effort to raise money. In February 2017, she participated in a 99.9 KRKT radiothon that raised $123,219, and in 2015, she played a key role in 98.7 The Bull's campaign that raised $211,438, all for St. Jude's.

Grace has hosted lemonade stands, magic shows, penny drives, coffee jar donations, glamour events, and so much more all in an effort to give back to the organization that saved her life.

"St. Jude's, they saved my life, so I feel like I owe them quite a bit, and so just the fact that they help kids in the way they do, I think they need all the support they can get," Grace says.

Through all of her own efforts plus coordinated campaigns with the radiothons, walks, and other fundraisers, Grace has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for St. Jude's.

While Grace's selfless endeavors are indeed magnificent, she also wants and deserves to live her life as she grows up. She's on the varsity softball team, in concert choir, active in a local dance studio, and plans to try out for the next high school thespian production.

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS  - Grace poses for a photo after winning first place in drill down at a dance competition in Pendleton for Dolce Dance in Molalla.


Conner Williams
Sports Reporter/News Contributor
503-829-2301 ext. 341
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