Within the last three years, Grace Lewis has lost both of her grandparents on her father’s side to cancer.
On her mother’s side, there also have been many family members who have had cancer.
“So I personally understand the loss that comes from cancer and how it affects everyone in one way or another,” Lewis said.
The 18-year-old was among seven local high school girls who spent the past month and a half raising money for the Theta Omega Chapter of Phi Beta Psi sorority’s 50th annual Cancer Dance.
During the dinner and dance Saturday night at Pewter Hall in Brownstown, it was announced that the seven contestants raised $30,018.35, which topped last year’s record of $25,732.
Lewis was the top fundraiser, so she was crowned Cancer Dance queen.
“I think it is truly amazing that we beat the record and especially on the 50th anniversary,” said Lewis, a senior at Seymour High School. “It was amazing that the past candidates and queens were able to come and celebrate how much we have raised together. It was great that we got to celebrate them and their efforts as well as this year’s candidates.”
The other contestants were Marlo Cornn, Kensley Koester, Addison Lemon, Kiley Sons and Brooke Schafstall of Seymour High School and Olivia Schwipps of Trinity Lutheran High School.
Each February, the Theta Omega chapter conducts this fundraising event for its national project of cancer research. This year’s theme was “Cheers to 50 years,” and The Jackson Way provided the music.
Once the contestants were announced in December, they were able to place collection canisters at various businesses and come up with other ways to raise money for the cause.
Lewis said she agreed to participate since her mother is a member of the sorority and both of her older sisters, Bailey and Mariah, were past candidates. Bailey was crowned queen in 2019.
“They reached out in December to have a meeting asking us if we were interested in being a candidate,” Lewis said. “It is an amazing opportunity to fundraise for such an important cause to me and to many others that I know and those that I don’t.”
Lewis placed collection cans at Poplar Street Restaurant in Seymour and her family’s businesses and sent letters asking for donations.
“I knew that sending out business letters and personal letters would help bring awareness to the fundraiser,” she said.
Lewis said she didn’t have a fundraising goal in mind. She just wanted to raise as much as possible.
“I was very grateful to those that had helped me fundraise,” she said. “It helped to further confirm that all the fundraising was going to help change people’s lives. I think it is amazing that the proceeds are going to such an amazing cause.”
When the fundraising total was announced Saturday night, she said she was blown away that so many people donated.
“I want to say thank you so much to those that helped to support me raising money for this great cause,” Lewis said. “It truly means a lot to me, and I know it means a lot to those that this money will go toward.”
Lewis said she had a good time at the event.
“I loved how the people that came to support were on the dance floor and stayed on the dance floor just about the whole time,” she said. “I liked that they had the past candidates/queens walk like they did and like how we were. It was a reminder that they went through the same and that it means a lot to so many people. It also was cool to think about how the past research and medicine helped to pave the way for our current medications to fight against this disease.”
The sorority conducts other fundraisers throughout the year to raise money for the national project and for local causes.
“With the sorority including current and local high school students, you really get a feel of how much (cancer) has affected everyone and how much it means to everyone to fight it,” Lewis said.
Earlier Saturday, Lewis placed third in diving at the girls swimming and diving sectional at Highland Hills Middle School in Floyds Knobs, and that advanced her to tonight’s regional in Jasper.
After high school, Lewis plans to attend a four-year college for civil engineering.