Christ Our Rock Lutheran High School in rural Centralia, Illinois requires all students to complete a fifty-hour service project to receive their diploma. Students choose from any number of volunteer opportunities, such as serving as a camp counselor for a week during the summer, helping at vacation bible school or teaching Sunday school to youngsters.
Grace Sugg was in her sophomore year at Christ Our Rock Lutheran when her brother, Bo Arvin, was diagnosed with epithelioid sarcoma cancer. When it came time for Grace to begin planning her service project, she set a bold vision: to honor her brother, Bo; increase awareness about sarcoma cancer; and raise money to find a cure.
Grace and Bo were close. She is younger by eleven years and Bo, a good big brother, served as a kind of fatherly figure. In true protector form Bo made sure he knew who she was hanging out with and where she was going, and he advised her on how to navigate her high school years. One of Grace’s fondest memories with Bo is the night they drove home from the movies along the dark rural roads and stopped spontaneously to sit outside, listen to music, and watch the stars in the country sky.
They had lots of fun, too. Bo was, by all accounts, hilarious and “a bit mischievous.” Grace remembers one particular time when her mother, Joann, asked Grace, Bo, and their sisters Megan and Casey, to do some chores. Somehow Bo and Grace ended up in a snowball fight. In the house. (Not sure if Joann knew about that one, but she does now!)
When Bo was diagnosed with sarcoma cancer, Grace and her family were shocked that they had never heard of sarcoma. Grace felt that awareness of this rare cancer should be elevated, and she wanted to support research to find a cure. This motivation shaped what might be the most meaningful and impactful service project in the school’s history.
A core group of family and friends planned for five months to create a fun event to honor Bo. On a perfect fall sweatshirt day in October 2017 it all came together: a town-wide Family Fun Day, including pumpkin launching, axe throwing, bags tournament, laser tag, kid’s corner, an obstacle course, and two separate bonfires. Food was also plentiful: a BBQ food truck, hot dogs, walking tacos, snow cones, s’mores, and ice cream.
Despite the meticulous planning, Grace admits she was a little worried that nobody would show up. But not only did people show up, her entire class from school came to help, friends drove in from other states, and people she didn’t even know came to the event. With the generous financial support of event attendees and a long list of local sponsors—not to mention the countless hours from helpers—Grace raised nearly $9,000 for the Sarcoma Foundation of America. Most of all, she pulled off an epic event befitting her brother’s memory, aptly described by attendees as “energizing” and “breathtaking.”
Bo died in October 2018, as Grace began her junior year at Christ our Rock Lutheran High School, the same school from which Bo graduated eleven years ago. She plans on entering college this fall and hopes to study Christian education and missionary work, and serve as a youth group leader.
Rein in Sarcoma is honored to host Grace Sugg at the 2020 Winter Gathering on January 26. Please join us at the event to hear Grace’s story firsthand and recognize her outstanding efforts to increase sarcoma awareness and dedicate funds to help find a cure.