Grace Orzechowski Scholarship Fund
Grace Orzechowski of Concord was so moved by the radiation therapists who treated her at Concord Hospital Payson Center for Cancer Care that she switched career paths and studied to become a radiation therapist herself.
Tragically, she died from a very aggressive brain cancer at age 24 in December 2020 before completing her studies at New Hampshire Technical Institute. But, her passion for the profession and for helping others continues in a scholarship her family established at the school.
“As a result of her radiation treatment, she connected with the radiation therapists at Payson
Center and quickly became friends with them and they inspired her to consider enrolling to become a radiation therapist,” said Grace’s father, Ray Orzechowski.
Grace suffered from glioblastoma, a fast-growing cancer with a very low survival rate, even for patients who receive intensive care as Grace did at Payson Center.
In 2019, after her diagnosis, Grace harnessed the power of social media to share the news of
her illness with friends and fellow alumni at the University of Connecticut and ask that they contribute to an annual UConn fundraiser for children’s medical care. She was the top fundraiser, at more than $36,000.
Her family realized that a scholarship in Grace’s name also would provide a way for people to channel their desire to help in a meaningful and lasting way. As they anticipated, the response has been tremendous. The scholarship fund had grown to more than $80,000 by springtime.
One of Grace’s classmates, Zoran Boskovic, was the first recipient.
Before her cancer diagnosis, Grace was studying to become a physical therapist. During treatment that included surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy at the Payson Center, she found a new path.
“Grace always wanted to help people,” said her mother, Anne LaForce. “We knew that was her calling. So, radiation therapy was just a great match for her and she was so excited to be in the program.”
Grace’s determination and grit were an inspiration, even as her illness affected her vision and mobility. She fought through the challenges and attended class, aided by a rolling walker, until several months before she died.
“She just kept being dealt blow after blow and she would say ‘I’m done being sad for myself. I am
going to pivot. Where do I go next?” said Grace’s older sister, Hannah.
Grace’s pivot to radiation therapy was how she continued turning the most negative of news into something positive.
“She said something like, ‘I feel like this happened for a reason and that radiation therapy is where I was meant to be the whole time,’” Hannah said.
Grace’s family was moved by the excellent care and compassion they saw from her Payson Center care team and knows Grace would have followed their example.
“Her compassion would have allowed her to be a phenomenal radiation therapist,” said Ray Orzechowski. “We are hoping that recipients of this scholarship will read her story, will know what she stood for and how hard she fought to continue to pursue her goals and that hopefully they’ll be inspired to provide that same empathy and compassion to all of the cancer patients they help treat.”
To support the Grace K. Orzechowski Memorial Scholarship, visit givenhcc.org/where-to-give/nhti
To support the Payson Center for Cancer Care, visit giveto.concordhospital.org/give-now