Over the last month that 13-year-old Hannah Way has been hospitalized, she has gained quite the support group.
The Tucson Country Day School seventh-grader — who was diagnosed with Stage 4 non-Hodgkin b-lymphoblastic lymphoma last August — has been battling a fungal infection, which landed her in the intensive care unit at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
Upon learning of the situation, Hannah’s school partnered with local businesses to collect nearly $3,000 in donations to be raffled off next week.
“It’s just been great,” Hannah’s mother, Phaedra Grate, said. “I’ve never seen people come together so much for a person. It’s amazing. Tucson, and even Phoenix, have gone beyond anything I ever could have imagined.”
Grate dropped everything to be by her daughter’s side and has since been unable to work, creating a financial burden for their family.
A frozen-dessert shop on Tucson’s east side, Bahama Buck’s, held a fundraiser to sell raffle tickets on Friday night, in addition to donating $200 worth of raffle prizes, said Sarah McKeown, Tucson Country Day School’s community relations director.
Other local businesses, including Creative Juice and Wood Bridge Photography, donated prize packages, and community members contributed a variety of items and gift certificates.
Hannah’s charter school has also held small fundraisers throughout the year to raise money for her family.
“We’re a very family-oriented school and we just had to do something for her,” McKeown said.
Tucson Country Day School has not only offered financial support, earlier this month the school’s students and staff wrote letters for Hannah, which were delivered to her by her stepdad and brother.
Grate said the letters have been encouraging for Hannah.
“She loves to read them,” she said. “She loves to get letters and messages — it makes her happy, it really does. I know that they’re still thinking about her.”
Grate has actively documented Hannah’s struggles and victories on the Facebook page TeamHannahWay, which is followed by more than 2,000 people.
“I just want people to know that it’s not all bald and beautiful little kids getting to do whatever they want,” Grate said. “It’s horrible, it’s ugly and it’s painful. I just want people to know that these kids are going through a lot.”
Before her diagnosis, Hannah was an avid softball player for years. Grate describes her as an athletic, fun and loving person who is a normal kid going through a hard time right now.
Hannah’s stepdad and brother drive to Phoenix every week to visit, and Grate has slept in a chair by her daughter’s side for four weeks.
Although the family felt hesitant to ask for help at first, the financial strain was unavoidable.
Grate’s friend encouraged her to create a GoFundMe page, and schools, churches and businesses in Tucson have all banded together in support. The school’s raffle will end Thursday, March 16, and winners will be announced the following day. The fundraising goal is $5,000.
“This is not about our school, this is about Hannah and the Tucson community pulling together to help her,” McKeown said.