In November of 2002, Hicksville Middle School suffered the loss of one of its most tenacious students. Sarah Grace Weippert lost her battle with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at age 12, just nine months after her diagnosis. But in the wake of tragedy, her parents Matthew and Marissa created something beautiful, The Sarah Grace Foundation—incorporated in March of 2003 to coincide with her birthday month.
“The foundation is our way of keeping her alive,” explained Matthew. “It keeps her going, not as we would like, but it keeps her name alive. It keeps her desires alive.”
Sarah could have complained. She could have constantly wondered, “why me?” But instead, the middle schooler exuded nothing but positivity, and it was her resilience and refusal to give up on anything that inspired Matthew and Marissa to stay strong. Ultimately, they created a nonprofit to bring Sarah’s exuberance to families dealing with pediatric cancer.
As part of their commitment to helping children endure treatments with a smile, the foundation will host its annual Hugs for Sarah Memorial Blood Drive on Saturday, March 30. From 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., eligible donors are encouraged to visit the William P. Bennett Hicksville Community Center, 28 W. Carl St., to donate blood in Sarah’s memory.
Two weeks later, the foundation will hold its 16th annual Night of Laughter Benefit Fundraiser at the Milleridge Cottage in Jericho on Friday, April 12, at 7 p.m. In all of its previous years combined, the special night has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars that go straight to helping children battling cancer and other serious illnesses. Guests will enjoy comedic host Rick Morgan and a quartet of comics. An $85 ticket includes entertainment, dinner, drinks, dessert and raffles (with the purchase of a $25 raffle book) for gift baskets, Walt Disney World park passes, gift cards and more.
With the funds raised through the Night of Laughter and other benefit events and donations, The Sarah Grace Foundation has provided families with baseball game tickets, distributed Halloween goodie bags and toys for Christmas to children in hospitals, sponsored holiday parties at childrens hospitals, shipped personalized gift packages to families and has given televisions to children with lengthy treatment stays, among so much more.
This March, Sarah would have turned 29. In the wake of her passing and in celebration of the life she would have wanted to live, the Weipperts have been striving to give families as much of a sense of normalcy as possible, helping them with finances and giving children what they need to have a moment of light in a dark time.
“It’s both heartwarming and gut wrenching at the same time [to help families],” Matthew said. “To realize that there are as many pediatric centers just in our area as there are and how many children are affected by cancer; it blows your mind. Enjoy every minute of every day. It changes in a heartbeat, so you have to get up every day with a positive mind that it’s going to be a good day.”
For more information about either fundraiser, call 516-433-9745 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.