Nov. 30—SALEM, N.H. — Grady Smith, a fifth grader, knows he can do hard things. He's been forced to for years.
So when it came to planning his annual holiday fundraiser, the 11-year-old was ambitious, setting a lofty goal of $20,000.
Locals, business owners, first responders and strangers have given a total of $16,600 to date. And there's still a few weeks of the collection remaining.
Grady and his family will deliver the money before Christmas to 6 West, the stem cell transplantation unit at Boston Children's Hospital. The Smiths know firsthand that it's a tough place to be.
Grady is diagnosed with adrenoleukodystrophy, or ALD. The potentially deadly genetic disease destroys myelin, the protective covering surrounding nerve cells that control thinking and muscles.
Experts say there is no cure, but stem cell transplants are known to help. Grady received his from a stranger in 2018, shortly after learning of his need.
His mom, longtime emergency room employee Jillian Smith, and dad, Methuen police officer Jeff Smith, noticed their son was suddenly having a hard time hearing.
The underlying cause was found in enough time for a successful transplant, but Grady's fight continues.
His mom explains that cognitive impairments disrupt his daily life and make it tough at times to keep up with friends.
Through it all, Grady worries about others still in the hospital.
"There are three kids that we've met over the years who are there right now with relapsing cancers," Jillian Smith explained. "When you're there you see the same faces, you get to meet all kinds of people."
Grady's annual holiday fundraiser usually consists of delivering toys to those kids. But because of the pandemic, the hospital is only accepting monetary donations.
The mission of bringing smiles to others started when Grady found himself hospitalized on his birthday.
"You're there to save your child's life and that's all you're thinking about," Jillian Smith said. "Being able to give these kids some gifts on special days is so important. It really makes Grady so happy."
A child life specialist at Boston Children's Hospital will compile a patient wish list and use Grady's donation to make purchases.
The money will also be used to buy arts and crafts supplies and incentive prizes, used throughout the year to encourage a child to eat, drink or walk when they don't want to.
Donations and more about the fundraiser can be found online at fundraise.childrenshospital.org/goto/gradysgifts2021.