I met Cory at the 1999 Children’s Miracle Network Telethon for Baystate Children’s Hospital, a few months after I had started working there. I remember how comfortable this seemingly shy little kid in glasses seemed to be in front of a camera on live television and I instantly fell in love. Cory had the best smile and his laugh was deep and genuine.
My name is Michelle Graci and that same year I met Cory, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I went through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, continuing to work every day that I could. I was inspired by the courage of the children I met in my previous work at the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the kids I was meeting at Baystate Children’s Hospital; especially Cory. I couldn’t imagine going through all he had to endure and yet he was always happy, hopeful and smiling.
Through the years Cory and I became good friends. We would sometimes have lunch together or chat on the phone. I loved his inquisitive mind and he was always ready to help raise funds for the other kids at the hospital. Having that experience – with the Telethon and then with the Radiothon – gave him a deep love for public speaking and helping others. I was so proud and amazed when he graduated college with a degree in communications. I remember the day Cory called and asked me if I would come to his first official speaking engagement as a motivational speaker. I was so honored he wanted me there and so very proud of his courage to go out and do something that meant so much to him.
Cory’s heart was huge and his love for friends and family even larger. You could see it shining from within every time he smiled. What an inspiration he was and what a smile he had. I will always remember his smile and that, in turn, will always make me smile.
I find inspiration all around me at work and in my personal life. I see the people we help in fundraising especially through the work I do managing the Rays of Hope Walk & Run Toward the Cure of Breast Cancer. People who face that fear and keep on going with such grace and positive energy. My parents, family and friends are great inspirations, too. Knowing there are people who have your back no matter what and who know the value that a smile has on your soul.