PLYMOUTH - â€śDonâ€™t cry mom,â€ť 12-year-old Grace Vigue told her mother Kim outside the Terryville Polish Club Sunday.
Kim Vigue smiled through her tears, amazed by the strength of her daughter, who is battling Ewingâ€™s Sarcoma Cancer. Over 200 people came to support the Vigues at a fundraiser organized by friends of the Plainville family. After being diagnosed with the rare illness on June 16 and beginning chemotherapy four days later, Grace did not start seventh grade at the Middle School of Plainville with her classmates this year.
Instead, sheâ€™s been in and out of the Connecticut Childrenâ€™s Hospital, undergoing aggressive treatment and surgeries to rid a tumor from the soft tissue of her chest wall. It has shrunk 75 percent so far. A tutor works with her in between hospital visits.
â€śSheâ€™s having what we hope will be her last surgery at the end of this week and then sheâ€™s got four more months of chemotherapy and radiation,â€ť Kim said. â€śSheâ€™s taking it with so much maturity. Sheâ€™s such a trooper. Sheâ€™s my hero.â€ť
Since the diagnosis, mother and daughter have spent only nine nights at home. Relatives have been caring for Graceâ€™s 13-year-old brother Zack. Kim left her job at 99 Restaurant in Bristol, where sheâ€™s been over 10 years, to care for Grace. The restaurant donated food for the fundraiser and employees took part.
For General Manager Matt Keal, it was essential to help.
â€śKimâ€™s one of my servers and weâ€™re family at my restaurant,â€ť he said. â€śWe take care of each other.â€ť
Her best friends Dawn Cercone and Ronnie LaFountain ran the event, collecting admission and selling raffle tickets. Cercone spent the last few weeks garnering raffle prizes from area businesses and organizations.
â€śThe Bristol community has been amazing,â€ť she said.
Mention of the support theyâ€™ve received brought tears to Kim.
â€śItâ€™s just been so wonderful,â€ť she said. â€śSo many people have given so much to help us. I feel blessed.â€ť
Although Grace has health insurance, the cost of prescriptions is high and hospital bills are piling up. Kim is a single mom, having lost her husband to a heart attack in 2012.
Mother and daughter both believe Graceâ€™s dad had a spiritual hand in her diagnosis. If it wasnâ€™t for a fall back in May, she would have never had the X-ray revealing the tumor beneath her rib cage.
â€śShe tripped over a hurdle in gym class and fell, which made me take her to the hospital for an X-ray,â€ť Kim said. â€śI swear it was her father who made sure she fell on that exact spot.â€ť
Her doctors cleared Grace to attend Sundayâ€™s event. In between hugs from friends and strangers she talked about looking forward to an expected return to school in January.
â€śI thought it would be cool to be homeschooled, but Iâ€™m getting kind of bored at home now,â€ť Grace said.
The illness has brought the family closer together, according to Kim.
â€śIt puts your life into perspective,â€ť she pointed out. â€śYou realize whatâ€™s important.â€ť
Bristol mayoral candidate Ellen Zoppo-Sassu met Grace for the first time Sunday. Graceâ€™s grandparents are active in the Bristol Historical Society, where Zoppo-Sassu is development director. Thatâ€™s how she heard about the illness and the opportunity to help.
â€śWe felt it was important to participate today,â€ť said Zoppo-Sassu. â€śThe good thing about Bristol is that everybody rallies around a special cause.â€ť
Donations to help the Vigue family can be made at www.gofundme.com/amazing-grace-cancer-donation .
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.