Megan Gravley's Grand Tribute

  • Name: Megan Gravley
  • Age: 19
  • Organization: Apex High School, Elon University

(Photo courtesy: Megan Gravley. Pictured: (L to R) Katie Godfrey, Sydney Snedeker and Megan Gravley.)

Author: Patrick Kinas, creator.

An ordinary business club exercise for a Triangle volleyball star, evolved into a real-life, event that hit close to home that left the community in awe, and her peers in tears.

The wicked villain that is cancer practically has a never-ending reach. Nearly every family in America has been touched by the vitriol on its fingertips. However, the determination of researchers and fundraisers has accelerated over the past decades, furiously playing catch up to assault and eliminate the disease.

For Apex, North Carolina native Megan Gravley, the term ‘cancer’ was merely understood when Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) launched a new chapter at Apex High School. However, a true connection that rooted cancer into Megan’s life didn’t really exist. At least, not yet.

Meanwhile, DECA, meant to provide young emerging leaders in business, finance and management a platform to learn their craft and present their business visions. In short, preparing future business leaders and providing them with a set of skills to help them succeed in the business world through this national and worldwide organization.

Gravley, now a sophomore volleyball star at Elon University, Katie Dodfrey (Soph. at NC State) and Sydney Snedeker (Soph. at the University of Texas), joined the club together as seniors at Apex. They were tasked with simply creating a business plan for an event with the hopes that their emerging business savvy might resonate with the DECA judges.

There was not going to be any execution of this business plan. Simply producing the plan and submitting to the panel.

So Gravley, Godfrey and Snedeker worked on crafting their plan – a cancer fundraiser.

A few weeks into the exercise, the model morphed from exercise into hard-hitting reality.

“About three weeks into planning it, my mom (Mary) was diagnosed with breast cancer,” Gravley recalled. “Then we decided to execute it, in her honor.”

The Peak City Gala of Hope was born.

Megan’s father, Jeff, is one of the most recognizable television sports anchors in the Southeast. Jeff has worked his way up from an initial intern at WRAL-TV to its sports director, winning regional Emmy’s and anchoring the sports desk since 1995, save a three-year stint in Cleveland from 2000-03.

Megan, an only child, knew she could rely on her dad’s support and influence to help turn this club project-turned-fundraiser campaign into a poignant affair.

“My dad obviously has a lot of connections and a lot of influence, but he’s humble and loves helping out other people. That’s his favorite thing to do,” Megan said. “That’s rubbed off on me.”

With no formal sales or fundraising training, Megan and her friends took to the streets, pounding the pavement with nothing but their gala brochures and heavy, determined hearts, they simply wouldn’t be stopped.

“We didn’t know any of these business owners,” Gravley recalled. “We were going in blind. We went to insurance companies, law firms, and handed them brochures for the event. They looked at us like we were crazy. A lot of them had open minds, and before we knew it, people wanted to be a part of it.”

After five months of planning and organizing, the one-time school project was about to become a beacon of Triangle light during a chilled North Carolina winter night.

The gala was held last January 22, 2012, with a collective goal of the three to reach $10,000. A nice, round number that would have embodied a colossal success. A night of live and silent auctions, music, speakers, dignitaries – all in the hopes of raising awareness and money for the Jimmy V Foundation.

“Our initial goal was to raise $10,000,” Gravley said proudly. “But even before the night of the gala, in sponsorships alone, we were already at $16,000. So then when the gala finally arrived, we were hoping to get to $20,000. We were going to do grand total after everyone left, but my friend came up in tears and I asked what’s wrong?”

“We hit $30,000.”

A few days after the biggest night in the young lives of the three inspiring students’ lives, a check ceremony was held in Apex High School’s library, complete with the principal, the school’s teachers and other key members of the community. The oversized check written with more than $30,000 was presented to none other than Nick Valvano, Jimmy’s brother and CEO of the V Foundation for 13 years.

“We weren’t expecting him to be there at all,” Gravley remembered. “We were speechless to have him show up.”

As the community basked in its unselfishness, driven by three Apex teens, the news became even more special when last September, Megan’s mom was diagnosed 100% cancer free.

Mimicking her dad, Megan is never seeking individual plaudits, but her Peak City Gala of Hope event still found its way before the DECA judges, and won the Learn and Earn category at the 2012 North Carolina DECA Career Development Conference and the International Career Development Conference.

Not a bad accolade for a business project that was never intended to leave a sheet of paper.

Just last week, Megan had another reason to celebrate. Mary Gravley enjoyed her 2- year anniversary of that cancer-free benchmark.

Meanwhile, Megan, an All-SoCon Freshman performer last fall, can now focus on her nearly 10 kills a match as an outside hitter for the 8-7 Phoenix spikers, who enter SoCon play this upcoming Friday against Georgia Southern.

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