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Local couple hosting childhood cancer fund-raiser

A local couple will be remembering their late daughter this weekend, and raising money for a childhood cancer support organization.

"A Day of Grace" is scheduled for June 5, in memory of Lynne and Steven Bell's daughter, Grace. It will be held from 10 a.m., to 3 p.m., at the Locust Grove City Hall pavilion and grounds.

Grace Morgan Bell was born June 6, 2002, and diagnosed with leukemia Sept. 30, that same year. She died on Jan. 1, 2006.

The couple's second child, Hudson Isaac Bell, was born on Sept. 23, 2005, and died six days later from Fanconi's anemia, a rare genetic disorder.

They adopted their third child, Hannah Elizabeth Bell, in May 2008.

"Our ‘Day of Grace' is in celebration of our daughter's birthday," said Lynne Bell. "It's going to be her eighth birthday this year. Every year since she has passed away, we've tried to honor and celebrate her life by doing something special around her birthday. This year, we wanted to do something special for her again, to come up with an idea to try to help other kids with cancer, and their families."

The event in Locust Grove will have a "Wings of Grace" yard sale, games, a bake sale, a silent auction, and food.

"We're also doing a balloon release. People can buy balloons for $1, and then at a certain time we're going to release the balloons together," said Lynne Bell. "If someone wants to do one in honor or memory of Grace, they can write a little message."

Proceeds from the event will benefit CURE Childhood Cancer, an organization dedicated to discovering cures and providing education and support to patients and their families.

CURE Childhood Cancer was founded in 1975, said Kristin Connor, the organization's executive director, and serves children living in Georgia as well as children being treated for cancer in the state.

"There are about 400 kids a year in Georgia who are diagnosed with cancer," said Connor. "We touch about 85 percent of those."

In addition to raising money, Steven Bell said the activities during "A Day of Grace" will also provide a healing experience.

"One thing that makes it special for me, so many people don't know what to do with you after you've lost a child. They don't know if they can talk about your child," he said. "I think it gives them an opening to say, ‘Oh yeah, they do want us to talk about their child.' You do, just as much as you want to talk about your kids who are still here. A lot of times people avoid that topic."

Steven Bell said he has a message for others facing a situation similar to what he and his wife went through.

"You can make it. We have friends who just lost a child, and I stood there at the head of the casket the other night and said, ‘You can make it, I just want you to know,'" he said.

Connor stressed the need to provide emotional and psychological support to parents of children facing cancer. The organization has an Early Outreach Program, which aims at making contact with families within 72 hours after a child is diagnosed with cancer, she said.

"It's so important. I think the experience of childhood cancer is so isolating," said Connor. "When your child is diagnosed with cancer, other people can't relate to the fear you're experiencing."

Lynne Bell said she hopes the "Day of Grace" event will generate several thousand dollars. Organizing the event is a first for the Bells.

"We don't really have a clue, being as this is the first time we've done it," Steven Bell said. "One thing we did learn at one of CURE's group retreats for parents back earlier in the year, she [Connor] said that they're not really supported off $20,000 or $30,000 donations. They're supported off $500 here and there."

What makes the fund-raiser special for the Bells is their faith, they said. They are members of the Way of the Cross Baptist Church, in McDonough.

"We know that we're going to see Grace again, and that way we're able to celebrate her," said Lynne Bell.