For one week each June, I return to Western Pennsylvania to work at a leadership camp called Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA). The campers are made up of approximately 120 rising high school seniors and I have the honor of counseling a small group of 8 – 12 of them.
On the second full day of camp, I was facilitating a round table discussion about my work in nonprofits, specifically with applying to grants. I had about five minutes to share a lot of information before the group rotated to the next table.
I had given my spiel for what felt like the hundredth time (but was definitely only the third) when Grace, a girl from my group came up to me and said we should talk more. She told me she ran a nonprofit that had raised a ton of money for Children’s Hospital.
Throughout the rest of the week, I learned more about Grace’s story and the amazing work she does through her organization. I am so proud to know this incredible young leader and to share her story with you all today. Without further ado, allow me to introduce Grace Beal, the Founder and Executive Director of Layups for Lucy.
Liz: Let’s start in traditional Smile Project fashion. Give me a Happiness is.
Grace: Happiness is giving back to those who gave to you.
Liz: What is your organization?
Grace: Layups for Lucy.
Liz: What is the driving force behind what you do?
Grace: My sister, Lucy, was born on October 24, 2008, when I was in first grade. She had breathing problems and other issues and was soon transferred to UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Lucy was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, as well as Noonan Syndrome. Lucy was the sweetest baby and I cherish every moment I got to spend with her. After many stays in the hospital, we started to focus on giving her the happiest life at home that we could. Lucy passed away when she was 11-months-old.
During her extensive stays at CHP I got to see the amazing work the staff there does on a daily basis. The staff not only provided world-class medical care, but also invaluable emotional support. They made my family feel safe and welcome, even in our darkest times.
I realized at a young age that I wanted to give back to the hospital for all they did for Lucy and the rest of my family. Not many people see first-hand the tireless efforts of the hospital staff, so I felt responsible to share my story to help support the continued work at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Liz: Tell me about the event.
Grace: I wanted to honor and remember Lucy, so in 4th grade I organized my class to donate books and movies to the library at Children’s. In 5th grade, my friend Liam and I got donations to swim laps and raised funds for Child Life, who had helped my sister Eliza and me when Lucy was hospitalized. In 6th grade, we donated blankets to the Children’s Home of Pittsburgh, a transitional care facility where Lucy had stayed.
During basketball season in 7th grade, I asked my coaches if my team could shoot layups after practice as a fundraiser for CHP. We were so successful asking our close family and friends for donations that I knew I wanted to do more.
I decided to turn Layups for Lucy into an event the entire community could enjoy. We set a date towards the end of October, around Lucy’s birthday. We also received permission to use my high school’s gymnasium as the location. I worked with a foundation to establish Layups for Lucy as a fund with 501(c)(3) status. I not only asked for donations from friends and family as usual, but also started soliciting businesses. In the spring of 7th grade, I invited students in 7th through 12th grade to join me at an organizing meeting. At my small school, over 50 kids showed up at our initial meeting. I was shocked and so excited.
Layups for Lucy continues to grow each year. The 2018 event raised $30,000 for CHP. The sixth annual Layups for Lucy will take place on October 26, 2019 in New Castle, Pennsylvania. We now feature a student vs. faculty game, an elementary skills clinic, and a free throw shooting contest. We have other entertainment like a magician, dance performances, a photo booth, face painting, and costumed characters. We have participants of all ages, from kindergarteners through grandparents, and from communities throughout our area. The committee of around 60 students that work with me to make this event happen are dedicated, inspired, and hardworking.
I am beyond proud and amazed by what Layups for Lucy has become. Being able to say that after the 2018 event L4L has donated over $100,000 to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh was a moment and feeling I will never forget. I am excited to see what the future holds for L4L and to keep fundraising for CHP.
Liz: What does service mean to you?
Grace: Serving my community has given me the opportunity to find my passion. Being able to turn the hardest thing that has ever happened to my family and me into an event that brings together my entire community AND provides donations to a place and people that have such a special place in my heart means the world to me. Seeing my little town come together to support the event has given me such a different outlook on the goodness of people, as well as making me realize how important service has become and always will be in my life.
Liz: How can people get involved?
Grace: People can follow the organization on Facebook and Instagram. Information regarding the event and how to donate is shared on our social medias. Questions can be sent to my personal email (firstname.lastname@example.org). We love to see more and more people participate in L4L.
Liz: Do you have a favorite quote?
“Devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”