In just the past couple of months, Penticton Indian band Elder Gramma Grace Greyeyes has been part of the Pow Wow Between the Lakes at the South Okanagan Events Centre, given blessings to the new rainbow crosswalk at Queens Park Elementary and most recently to Princess Margaret grads, where she shared her wisdom and humour at the ceremony.
The residential school survivor did all of this while having stage four ovarian cancer. Gramma Grace has been going to schools and sharing her story and knowledge with students for 30 years. She also has been giving back to the community of Penticton and members of her band more times than can be counted.
Now her daughter, Lainie Greyeyes, and other family members and friends want to give back to Gramma Grace, by crossing off a bucket list item to go to Hawaii. The hope is that Gramma Grace can get to Hawaii in September for a special inter-tribal Pow Wow taking place in Oahu. While there, Greyeyes said she would like to sit and share stories with fellow elders from Hawaii.
“My mom has given so much and never asks for anything of herself. We really want to do this for her. Because she is mostly using a wheelchair now and will need help getting around, her niece will be coming with us to Hawaii. That will be three generations going together to Hawaii.”
Lainie estimates the cost for the three of them to go on the trip to be around $8,000. Family member Darryl-Jean Peeman took on the fundraising efforts in late May. Already, over $4,000 has been raised.
Gramma Grace has five children, 22 birth grandchildren (with many more calling her Gramma) and eight great-grandchildren. She has lived her life helping others all the while sharing her infectious smile and wisdom.
“My mom is my hero. She is my role model,” said Lainie.
Grace Greyeyes survived a horrific childhood in residential school. She later worked as a registered nurse at Penticton Regional Hospital for years, retiring in 1988.
“For all that she has been through she could have had hate in her heart, but instead, she chose love, and has shared that with so many people not just here, but in the whole community of Penticton.”
It was back in 2021 when Gramma Grace started having severe pain. However, this pain developed during COVID and her doctor kept pushing her off and did not do the tests that should have been done.
“We finally took her to emergency where they found a 12-inch tumour on her ovary,” said Lani.
Since then it’s been a difficult journey of chemotherapy and surgery in hopes to stop the cancer. Still, Grandma Grace pushes through the pain to continue her community work when she can.
At Thanksgiving, she was back in the emergency room where they removed 15 pounds of cancer fluids.
“We didn’t think she’d make it,” said an emotional Lainie. Unfortunately, the cancer is very aggressive and doctors said Gramma Grace has about a year before the cancer takes over her body.
That’s when Lainie asked what is on her mom’s bucket list. Grace said she would love to go to Hawaii and to Edmonton to see the Canadian Professional Bull Riding competition in November.
After the diagnosis, the family has come around Gramma Grace for Sunday dinners. Lainie would always stay later and watch, the bull riding on TV with her mom. Now Lainie has gotten into watching bull riding too.
Lainie is hoping to take her mom to Edmonton to watch the bull riding championships in November.
“There are many Indigenous bull riders that we like to cheer on,” she added.
HOW TO DONATE:
Lainie encourages people to join the ‘Let’s Get Gramma Grace to Hawaii’ Facebook page to follow along in her journey.
For one day, on July 14, Suncity Exteriors is matching donations to Gramma Grace’s bucket list trip up to $1,000. Already so many people have donated to send her to Hawaii.
If you’d like to help you can send money to Darryl-Jean Peeman who is fundraising for the trip. E-transfer to email@example.com. To contact Darryl-Jean Peeman call 250-462-1332 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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