, Muskogee, OK

July 30, 2013

When life handed her lemons...

Five-year cancer survivor sells lemonade to help find a cure

— By April Reynolds

Times Correspondent

Fort Gibson locals traded their cup of coffee for a fresh cup of lemonade Saturday.

Even the cloudy, foggy day couldn’t hide the sunshine coming from Grace Gwin’s smile.

Grace, an 8-year-old who will start third grade this year, was cancer free for five years July 25 and celebrated by giving back.

Grace’s Lemonade Stand for a Cure was taking donations for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Oklahoma City Chapter.

Autumn Gwin, Grace’s mother, said that before the lemonade stand had even started they had received more than $1,000 in donations.  

“I am just super, super proud of her,” Autumn said. “She just has a really big heart.”

Grace said she wanted to sell lemonade because she wants to help people.

“Lemonade is my favorite drink,” Grace said. “And it has a secret ingredient — love.”

Grace was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia just three days after turning 3. Rob Gwin, Grace’s father, said they discovered she was sick at her well-child check-up.

“She had some bruising on her shins, but we just thought she might be anemic,” Gwin said.

They diagnosed Grace the next day, and she immediately began aggressive treatment at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, Ark.

Grace’s story is shown through several beaded necklaces with brightly colored beads, which she made through Beads of Courage, a program that helps children record their treatment and serious illnesses.

The beads all symbolize a step in her recovery process — yellow for nights in the hospital, white for chemo doses, red for blood transfusions, and purple, the color Grace likes the most.

“The purple heart is my favorite one because it means the end of treatment,” Grace said.

Grace is energetic and optimistic, and instead of focusing on the negative of the illness she has chosen to help and be a beacon of hope for others.

She even picked out the color of her stand — pink, her favorite color — and helped paint it.

Grace had her family there to support her. Her little sister Emily, 6, was working alongside her, with matching aprons their Grandpa Mark Turbey had gotten for the occasion.

Her 1-year-old brother Jacob also was there helping support her.

Rose Gwin, her proud “Meme,” looked on with a big smile. When Grace isn’t giving back she likes to play with her sister, swim and ride her bike and her favorite subject in school is art. Like her name she faced this experience with grace and continues to want to help people. She already knows what she wants to be when she grows up.

“I want to be a doctor,” she said.

Grace had some advice for others in similar situations: “Stay strong and fight on.”