CI Heroes: After losing son, St. Jude mom helps other St. Jude families

Published 07/28 2014 11:01PM

Updated 07/29 2014 02:56PM

BLOOMINGTON - Life can change in an instant.  
That's what one central Illinois woman learned tragically, five years ago.
But instead of giving up hope, she's giving it, to people who need it most.
And that's making her a CI Hero.
If you ask Emilio Gravez's mom how she'd describe her son.
She's never at a loss for words.
“A vibrant kid, wonderful little boy."
But at just three and a half years old, Emilio's family learned just how life can change in an instant.
“He was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma which a tumor that starts in the left adrenal gland. His tumor was 4 inches by 4 inches,” explains Christine Gravez, Emilio’s mom.
After months in remission, the cancer came back.
Emilio was sent to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital for a trial treatment to help cure him, but it was too late.
Emilio passed away when he was four.
"It had progressed so rapidly,” Christine explains.
Now, Emilio’s mom is honoring her son's memory, giving her life to St. Jude.
“It’s my life mission now that Emilio has passed away and I’ve seen other families going through this. While some have children that are survivors, others had children that have passed away."
She's made a cookbook for her son, who was an avid baker, and she’s raised thousands through fundraising nights at local restaurants and the annual telethon.
“We just say everything that St. Jude does for the kids from the nurses to the doctors to the staff workers. The social workers, everyone there, they pour out their hearts,” Christine explains.
Christine is now pouring out her heart, personally supporting families now in a position where she once was, crediting learning how to give, from the very best.
You can still buy Emilio’s cookbook and help St. Jude. Just email Christine Gravez at
Christine says she has another in the works, too.
Do you know a CI Hero? Nominate them! Email to

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