Grace Beal, 17, of New Castle, Pennsylvania, a junior at Neshannock Senior High School, organized an annual basketball-based fundraising event that has raised more than $100,000 since 2014 for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, where her sister was treated before she died of congenital heart failure. “Lucy was the sweetest baby, even though she had a lot of medical issues that meant she would spend long periods in the hospital,” Grace said. “My family had its world turned upside down when she was sick, and when she died, I knew I wanted to help other kids and their families.” While still in elementary school, Grace began doing that by conducting service projects in her sister’s honor. She collected books for the hospital’s library, swam laps to attract donations, and gathered blankets for babies at a children’s home.
In seventh grade, she asked her basketball coaches if her team could shoot layups after practice to raise money for Children’s Hospital. She ended up with almost $6,000. “I was so excited by that outcome that I decided to plan for something even bigger the next year,” she said. Grace has hosted “Layups for Lucy” every October since, around the time of Lucy’s birthday. In the early spring, she meets with several dozen students to plan the event’s activities, concessions and entertainment. Last year, there was an elementary basketball clinic, a free throw contest, a student versus faculty basketball game, a DJ and a magician, a dance line, cheerleader performances, face painting, food and raffle baskets. Grace approaches local and national businesses for sponsorships, oversees all aspects of the event, and meets with officials at the hospital to identify ways her donation can have the most impact. So far, Layups for Lucy has helped start and support a summer bereavement camp for siblings, funded family outings at the zoo and ballpark, and purchased Xboxes and iPads for young patients.