Zoe Graham, age 19, is looking forward to making her debut as one of the honorees in this year’s 120th Akron Children’s Charity Ball, an event that recognizes and honors the participating women and their families for their commitment to the hospital and the community. As part of her service project for Charity Ball, Zoe participated in making blankets for Project Linus, a non-profit organization that makes and donates handmade blankets to pediatric patients.
“I was born 6 weeks prematurely and I spent time in the special care nursery where I received a Project Linus blanket as a baby,” Zoe said. “That really made the experience of making the blankets extra special.”
Zoe’s brother, Maddox, who will present her at Charity Ball, was also born prematurely, weighing just 2 lbs., 5 oz.
“He would not have survived without the care he received in Akron Children’s NICU,” recalled Suzie Graham, Zoe’s mom. “It was an exceptionally stressful time.”
Now, in what Suzie describes as a full-circle moment, her two kids get to participate in an event that raises money for the institution that helped give them their start in life.
“It’s a reminder of the important role Children’s has played in my family’s life,” said Suzie. “Plus, it’s been neat to learn about how Children’s was started by a group of visionary women (the Women’s Board) and how they have helped to shape the hospital through the years.”
After her kids’ pediatrician (Dr. Richard Ball) retired in 2019, Suzie transitioned them to the care of the hospital’s Adolescent Medicine department where Zoe’s provider made an unexpected discovery.
“Her provider ordered routine bloodwork which showed Zoe has Factor V (a mutation of one of the clotting factors in the blood that can increase a person’s chances of developing blood clots),” said Suzie. “Now we know what to look for and how to manage it, both today and in the future.”
A 2023 valedictorian and graduate of Firestone High School and current University of Akron freshman, Zoe is majoring in supply chain management and minoring in international business. Her career goal is to become a foreign affairs officer. She has studied Mandarin for 5 academic years and hopes to spend a semester abroad in China during her junior year.
“I went to Beijing in the 8th grade with students from STEM Middle School,” she said. “It really sparked my interest and I have been wanting to go back ever since.”
After recently completing fall semester exams, Zoe can more fully enjoy the bonding experience Charity Ball has brought to her family.
“My brother has been coming to dance practice with me,” said Zoe. “I was surprised how much rhythm he has. He’s better than a lot of the dads.”
As the first woman in her family to be asked to participate in Charity Ball, Zoe said it is an honor.
“This has been a real celebration of the women in our family,” said Zoe, who is enjoying sharing the experience with her mother and grandmother. “We are all looking forward to it.”
This year’s Charity Ball will take place on Dec. 29 at E.J. Thomas Hall.