Karalee Grant leaves lasting impression on YACC networkDecember 17, 2015
Kim and Keith Grant didn’t know anything about Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC) when their daughter, Karalee, was diagnosed with olfactory neuroblastoma (cancer in the sinuses) in 2005 at the age of 19. They also didn’t know much about us two years later when Karalee travelled from Manitoba to Quebec for Retreat Yourself.
Once she went home, however, that all changed.
“Karalee didn’t know anybody [going to the retreat], she didn’t know exactly what she was going to. She was bald and skinny and had just gotten off chemo and made the trip,” said Kim. “Well, she left there with friends and feeling better about herself and her situation, such as it was. She got the support that she needed.”
Kim says Karalee’s friends at home didn’t understand what she was dealing with and still expected her to have the energy and interest to hang out like they used to.
“I have pictures of her going to the bar with her friends and she’s got her PICC line in. She was tired but wanted to spend time with her friends and going to the bar is what you do at 20. Her friends were wonderful, but they didn’t really know how to support her while she was in treatment and sick. When she went to Retreat Yourself, that’s where she met friends who got it. They understood the treatments, the resulting side effects and could relate. I am very fortunate that I keep in touch with her friends to this day.”
When Karalee’s cancer metastasized to her brain, one of her Retreat Yourself buddies flew in and stayed with the family for a while. Joined by another YACC pal, the girls also took a trip to San Francisco together.
“I was having a mini heart attack—my little daughter who’s sick is going to San Francisco—but they had a great time. They really did bond and that was all because of Retreat Yourself,” said Kim. “That’s the kind of deep friendships they made.”
“I never want people not to remember her”
Karalee died in 2010, but the Grants have stayed actively involved with YACC, mainly through the annual Karalee Golf Classic at the Sandy Hook Golf Club outside of Winnipeg. Their goal each year is to raise enough money to send another young adult dealing with cancer in Manitoba to a Retreat Yourself program so they can feel the sense of connection Karalee benefitted from.
Held at Karalee’s former place of employment and supported by her direct network, the annual fall tournament is the family’s way to keep her memory alive and despite interest from the community to grow it, the event is only open to 24 golfers—most of who knew Karalee. Even though the numbers are limited, the event continues to raise more money each year—from $1,115 in 2010 to $3,730 in 2015—for a running total of $14,155!
“People know what to expect, so they bring extra money. We’ve found new ways to fundraise, and we have great people donate prizes for us,” said Kim.
In addition to fundraising and the $100 registration fee, they have giveaways and door prizes on things like a Texas Mickey (which is donated by Karalee’s grandmothers) and a Winnipeg Jets jersey sporting the number of the event (one to six so far) from a friend who works with the team.
Celebrating Karalee’s legacy through growing YACC’s network
So far, six young adults have attended Retreat Yourself because of the Grants’ commitment to their daughter’s legacy and a cause that directly changed her life. Once each program concludes, the new YACCer writes a thank you note to the Grants who read it at the following tournament to remind everyone that even though the event is in honour of Karalee, it’s really helping someone live and love life beyond cancer.
Kim says the Jets will be donating a “7” jersey next year as they will hold another event in October 2016, and will continue to spread awareness about YACC to try and reach more young adults who need its programs and services.
“It’s really important to raise the awareness of Young Adult Cancer Canada because [young adults with cancer] are such a misrepresented group of people,” she said. “I don’t think people know Young Adult Cancer Canada is out there.”
But thanks to their continued dedication, we’re reaching them.
Thank you to Kim, Keith, and the whole Grant family for having YACC’s back!