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Thief River Falls volunteers, donors pitch in to give cancer patient her dream bedroom

From left Gracie Woods, 15, Kayli Swanson, 16, and Gracie's father Todd Woods stand in the Woods' home Wednesday afternoon. Gracie was diagnosed with cancer at age 12 and after several unsuccessful rounds of chemotherapy, decided to cease treatment and live out her life free of sickness. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald1 / 3
Thief River Falls resident Gracie Woods, 15, left, and her friend Kayli Swanson, 16, laugh together at Woods' home Wednesday afternoon. Later that day Woods served as the Grand Marshall in the town's annual fair parade. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald2 / 3
The door to Gracie Woods' room is marked with her name in the basement of her parents' Thief River Falls home. Gracie was diagnosed with cancer at age 12 and after several unsuccessful rounds of chemotherapy, decided to cease treatment and live out her life free of sickness. Soon, Woods will be given a bedroom makeover to create her dream room, including a smart TV with surround sound and plenty of room for her friends to come over and watch movies or hang out. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald3 / 3

THIEF RIVER FALLS — With every option exhausted and no cancer treatment left for Grace Woods to try, the community is rallying around the 15-year-old to make her dream come true.

Exhausted by her battle with the disease, she spends most of her time in her bedroom. So when a family friend proposed a makeover for the room, she agreed to put together a wish list.

“I don’t really see it as my room,” she said, because it’s where she visits with friends and family.

The friend, Allie Enge, launched an online fundraising campaign on July 9 with the goal of raising $5,500. Within 24 hours, more than $14,000 came pouring in. As of Thursday, donations topped $18,500.

“The outpouring (of support) from the community has been overwhelming,” said Todd Woods, Grace’s father. “How do you say thank you?”

He said he’s glad that the bedroom project allows people to do “something that’s tangible, something that they can see.”

Rare cancer

Grace Woods was diagnosed three years ago with osteosarcoma — a rare form of bone cancer with about 800 new cases diagnosed per year — she has undergone more than 70 treatments of chemotherapy and a trial of radium.

The effects are debilitating.

“You feel like you’ve already lived 100 years, and you’re just done,” Grace said.

That was part of the reason she decided not to continue treatment when doctors told her and her family recently that treatment would only extend her life by three or four months.

“You’re not dying. You’re just going away. You’re going to go on to another life. It’s not the end,” Grace said. “That’s how I look at it.”

“So does she want to live the time she has left living or being sick?” her father said.

Tidal wave

Enge said that Grace’s struggle inspired her. “She has touched so many people’s lives including mine,” Enge said. “I felt like I needed to give back.”

The two sketched out an ideal bedroom with a flat-screen TV, surround sound, rope lights, big pillows and a Bookworm shelf to hold Grace’s DVD collection.

When Enge went to raise the money needed, she found the community extremely receptive to the idea. Donors made Grace’s webpage the second busiest on the day it was launched, Enge said.

And then came the phone calls.

Lee Plumbing and Heating, a family business in Thief River Falls, contacted Enge, wanting to upgrade Grace’s bathroom.

“We’ve been following Grace’s story all along and just really feel for their family,” said Stacy Lee, financial officer of Lee Plumbing. “Everyone is willing to pitch in.”

Fischer Electric of Thief River Falls offered to take care of the electrical work, and Domino’s Pizza is donating food for the more than 70 volunteers beginning work on Grace’s room Aug. 1.

Even OPI Products, a nail-polish manufacturer based in Hollywood, is donating a line of nail polish, Enge said.

With the outpouring of support, there may be leftovers from the fundraiser, which Enge said will go to the Woods family.

Grace said she’d like to see her parents’ basement living room remodeled, too.

But she and her father said such generosity is not new.

“We’ll get random things in the mail,” Todd said, recalling the time they received a package of assorted Girl Scout cookies with a postmark from another state.

It came with a note that said: “You are a tough cookie.”


Call Volpenhein at (701) 780-1125(800) 477-6572, ext. 1125; or send email to