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Janna Grace Wakefield.
Courtesy photo
Janna Grace Wakefield.

Hospital to honor baby who died of rare cancer

By Deangelo McDaniel
dmcdaniel@decaturdaily.com · 340-2469

If you never met Janna Grace Wakefield of Decatur, well, that’s your loss.

She was a loving little girl who taught those around her about courage and strength.

And despite being diagnosed with a rare brain tumor nine days before her first birthday, Janna Grace never stopped smiling.

Resting in the arms of her parents, Stewart and Teryn Wakefield, Janna Grace died Nov. 6, 2005, at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.

“Through everything, she never cried,” her father said. “She was always a happy baby. That beautiful smile and those pretty eyes would steal your heart. It’s through Janna Grace that I learned about life and the passion of life.”

In her memory, the hospital is holding the “ChapStick Baby Dinner of Dreams” on Oct. 7 at 6:30 p.m. at The Ledges on Carl T. Jones Drive in Hunts-ville.

The cost is $100 per person or $750 for a table of eight.

All proceeds benefit pediatric cancer research at Children’s Hospital.

Angela Hacker, a Muscle Shoals native who is on tour promoting her new album, will provide entertainment.

Author Edie Hand with her new book, “The Last Christmas Ride.”
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Author Edie Hand with her new book, “The Last Christmas Ride.”
Her cousin and author, Edie Hand, will be the guest speaker.

Remembering Janna

Hand, who starred in the daytime drama “As the World Turns,” is a three-time cancer survivor.

She also lost her brother to cancer in his mid-40s.

“The story of Janna is so touching,” said Hand, who wrote a book about two of her brothers dying in an automobile accident and another who died of cancer.

“This dinner is about remembering Janna and all the dreams not accomplished. But, it’s also about remembering her, and the impact she had on so many in a short time.”

Best birthday present

One day before her father’s birthday, Janna Grace was born Sept. 24, 2004, at Decatur General Hospital.

“She was the best birthday present I could have received,” he said.

From the onset, her father said, there was something special about her.

She was in photographic pageants as an infant and was selected most photogenic in a state competition when she was 9 months.

But the world the Wakefields envisioned for their daughter changed before Janna Grace’s first birthday.

They received the shocking news that their daughter had an aggressive brain tumor that generally strikes children younger than 3 and car-ries a survival rate of 10 percent.

“She was so young, but Janna Grace always gave everyone a sense of peace,” her father said. “It’s like she knew more than we knew.”

Her father said the story of the ChapStick started before doctors diagnosed Janna Grace’s tumor.

“She was always a girly girl who loved jewelry and brace-lets,” he said.

“We would put lip gloss on her at home. We had some ChapStick at home, and we would put this on her.”

Maintaining normalcy

He said a tube of ChapStick quickly became a part of Janna Grace.

She had a little pink purse and inside the purse was her ChapStick.

“It gave her a sense of normalcy, especially as she battled the cancer,” the father said.

He said his daughter had three surgeries.

“She had ChapStick in her hand before the surgeries and it was there after the surgeries,” he said.

When she received visitors at Children’s Hospital, Janna Grace always reached out and gave them a tube of ChapStick, her father said.

“To this day, many of the nurses still carry ChapStick in their pockets in memory of Janna,” said Rene Gilliland, the North Alabama regional coordinator for Children’s Hospital.

Jana Grace Wakefield Benefit

  • What: “ChapStick Baby Dinner of Dreams” to raise money for pediatric cancer research at Children’s Hospital of Alabama.

  • When: Oct. 7, 2007, at 6:30 p.m.

  • Where: The Ledges on Carl T. Jones Drive in Huntsville.

  • Cost: $100 per person or $750 for a table of eight.

  • Reservations: Contact Rene Gilliland at (256) 682-8115.

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