Honoring Grier

Grier Christenbury, the inspiration behind the local Cookies For Kids’ Cancer efforts, died this week at the age of 9 after a long battle with neuroblastoma.

The south Charlotte boy was diagnosed with pediatric cancer as a 2-year-old, and recently had another relapse, a family friend said. After years of treatment and chemotherapy, the state of Grier’s bone marrow made any further treatment useless, his mom, Amy Christenbury, wrote online, and the family decided against seeking any further treatment.

The Cookies For Kids’ Cancer events, which seek to raise money for pediatric cancer research, will go on in Grier’s name, and the next events are scheduled for next weekend across the Charlotte area. Grier’s mom said she knows he’d want the bake sale to keep going and continue helping kids in need.

“I know Grier, the tough cookie wants it to be a great event,” she wrote online. “He knows that money goes to help doctors find better medicine for kids like him.”

This year’s Cookies For Kids’ Cancer bake sale, which annually takes place at south Charlotte’s Blackhawk Hardware at Park Road shopping center and has become a holiday staple in the community, has expanded to a number of other locations in an effort to reach as many families as possible – one of which will be in Blakeney.

Last year’s event, at Blackhawk Hardware and at a location in Huntersville, raised more than $220,000 for pediatric cancer research. Now, organizer Lesa Helbein said the group is planning for even bigger and better turnouts this year, with more cookies, more volunteers and more locations.

This year’s event will include the two-day sale at Blackhawk Hardware: Dec. 7, a Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Dec. 8, a Sunday, from noon to 5 p.m.; TCBY at the Blakeney shopping center: Dec. 7, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; across from Santa at Birkdale Village in Huntersville: Dec. 7 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and another new location at Art Space Studios at the Rivergate shopping center in Steele Creek: Dec. 7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Dec. 8, noon to 5 p.m.

“We are looking to have these simultaneous bake sales going on all over the city just to continue to raise awareness,” Helbein said. “This year, we are expecting big crowds – we have a lot of people who have been spreading the word.”

That includes more than 50 local bakeries that have committed to donate goods to the cause and about 150 families who have signed up to bake cookies, cakes, brownies and other sweet treats of their own for donation. Helbein and the team of other organizers have been pleased over the years to see the number of people in the Charlotte community willing to help out, but it’s been no surprise to see the impact of all the helping hands.

“Anyone can help a child with cancer if they just put forth the effort,” Helbein said. “The smallest effort benefits what we do. It’s the culmination of everyone working together that makes the biggest impact.”

This year’s events also will include a blood drive at Blackhawk Hardware for the Community Blood Center of the Carolinas, who keeps the blood local. That event will be Dec. 8 from 1 to 5 p.m.

New this year will be the first annual Cookies For Kids’ Cancer Toy Drive to benefit Levine Pediatric Hematology Oncology Clinic. Inspired by Grier, the hope is to gather toys and games to help entertain patients who often visit the clinic for check-ups. The group is working with Toy’s & Co., who has both a Park Road and Cotswold location, for drop-off for the toys. Wish lists of needed items are available at both locations and include games, crafts, toys, movies and video games for the clinic’s entertainment center. In addition to being drop-off locations, Toy’s & Co. also will give 10 percent of its net sales on Dec. 6, 7 and 8 to Cookies For Kids’ Cancer.

Dilworth Drug and Blackhawk Hardware also will serve as a drop-off locations.

“Since we started doing this, since the Cookies organization was created, there have been seven new (cancer) treatments brought to trial,” Helbein said, and Charlotte donations will help fund future trials and research. “Our goal this year is $300,000 with our matches. I really hope we can pull that off. It definitely would mean a lot to Grier’s family.”

“I just read this week that Charlotte was No. 9 in giving in the country… I believe it,” Helbein added.

To make a donation in Grier’s honor and to find more about the bake sale or Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, visit the Charlotte branch’s website, www.charlottegoodcookies.com.

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