COQUILLE – Grant Crim has dealt with a lot during his young life. He has survived brain cancer three times and treatments that left him legally blind. He has undergone surgeries, hospital stays, clinical trials and doctor office visits since he was a toddler.
When he was born, his parents, Michael and Becky Crim were told he probably wouldn't survive.
But Crim has done more than survive. He's defied the odds and in the process, built a depth and strength of character that has turned his hardships into a positive attitude used to help others.
Crim has never let his illness define his character. His cancer is now stable but “never in remission.” His tumor is the size of a fingernail, but still in his brain, though it hasn't grown in seven years.
Crim has been active with the American Cancer Society since he was a child, acting as a spokesman and advocate for ACS and its annual signature fundraising event, Relay for Life. Even when it was evident that his sight was declining, he continued his mission of letting others know there is hope after being diagnosed.
Now he and his best friend from California, Alexis Morgan, have been selected, along with two other Americans, to represent the U.S. at the 2017 Global Relay for Life as Heroes of Hope. Twenty-seven people representing 11 countries were selected for the honor, and more than 20 countries participate in the event. Crim and Morgan are among the youngest recipients ever chosen. The Global Relay For Life Heroes of Hope and their stories encourage support of and participation in programs of each global cancer organization.
“I was flattered and honored,” Crim said. “I never thought I'd get a global award. I found out I had been nominated and was told to wait until January, but I never expected to get the call.”
He met Morgan when they were both on a campus team for colleges against cancer.
“It's so exciting that we both got this honor,” he said.
Crim is humbled by the many awards he's received. He was named the 2012 Youth Citizen of the Year for Coquille, then named the ACS Hero of Hope Great West Division in 2013. In 2015, he graduated from Winter Lake Academy in Coquille as valedictorian of his class. And, most recently, on his 21st birthday Dec. 29, Crim was given the 2017 Advocate Award from 7-Devils Brewing Co. that includes a plaque on the wall with his photo and story, along with free beer for a year.
As a teen, he volunteered in various leadership positions, including Relay for Life team development chairman, RFL event chairman, Colleges Against Cancer West Campus Leadership Team's survivor and caregiver chairman and is now serving as RFL's Great West Division's survivor and caregiver chairman.
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Crim is a sophomore attending online classes through Southwestern Oregon Community College, studying communications and sociology with a 4.0 grade point average. He is working on a transfer degree and a general studies associate's degree. One of his goals is to eventually start his own nonprofit that offers extended-stay pediatric lodging. With that in mind, he is working with the Bay Area Hospital Cancer Center on improving access to treatment that assists patients with lodging and transportation.
“I feel like we can make a difference here locally, nationally and globally,” Crim said. “So I'm kind of excited.”
“I want to do something with my life, not to make money, but as long as I have good (health) insurance and I'm making a difference, I'll be happy,” he added. “I want to say I helped with something.”
His parents couldn't be more proud. Becky Crim said her son has grown into a man whose greatest concern is for others.
“I think that watching him grow this way has been absolutely amazing, considering all he's been through,” Becky said. “A lot of kids would shut down.”
The 2017 Global Relay for Life events are held around the world but Crim is looking at possibly attending one in the UK or Ireland. Unfortunately, the honor of being named as Global Heroes of Hope does not come with a monetary prize.
“It's on my life list to go to another country and attend a Relay,” he said. “So I've started my travel fund.”
Crim has met a lot of people along the way, many of them willing to help. He can probably get inexpensive airfare through a friend, he said, but isn't looking forward to a flight across the pond.
“At 6-feet, 5 inches, a long flight is not comfy,” he said.
In the meantime, Crim is also planning the third annual Brews & Giggles event, a beer and comedy night at the Egyptian Theatre, this year set for April 29. The proceeds will be split between the local Relay for Life and the Bay Area Hospital Cancer Center.
There will only be one Coos County Relay for Life this year, which will be held at the Marshfield track this summer. To kick off the Relay, a chili cook-off will be held at The Barn in Bandon on March 4. Those interested in starting a team, donating or registering as a cancer survivor or caregiver can do so at RelayForLife.org/CoosCountyOR.