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This website is dedicated to the memory of our wonderful son, Derek Graffis of Bethlehem, PA, who passed away in December 2010 at the age of 21. He valiantly battled against Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) for 2-1/2years before losing his fight.

Derek was first diagnosed with ALL in March 2008. His chemotherapy at Lehigh Valley Hospital was eventually successful, and he was in remission for over 18 months. In March 2010, the cancer came back, and his doctors knew that chemotherapy alone would not be enough this time. In late June, Derek received the ultimate gift from an anonymous donor, a bone marrow transplant to save his life. He made it though the long ordeal of the transplant, and was feeling pretty good when he started having trouble keeping food down. He ended up being transferred from Lehigh Valley Hospital down to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where he had received his transplant. Since he was 21 years old and 6 feet tall, he was one of the"big kids" at both Lehigh Valley Hospital and at CHOP, and all his doctors and nurses loved to come in and razz him about various things, always expecting a witty comeback response with a big smile on his face.

The Blanket Story

"Derek's Hugs" blankets began on a cold December night at CHOP when Derek was trying to get warm. Since his 6 foot frame literally filled the length of the hospital bed, he needed several staggered layers of blankets to keep him warm from his toes up to his chin. He told us that he wished he had a big warm, fuzzy blanket from his bed at home to keep him warm, rather than the layers of plain white hospital blankets. His social worker overheard this conversation, and went looking for a warm blanket from their "special closet", but all she could find was an infant sized blanket. She apologized to Derek that she didn't have anything else right now, but she said that from time to time they received donations of larger blankets. Derek decided to do something about that, and had us immediately send out an email appeal to friends and family to donate fun and fuzzy blankets to help brighten the days for the other kids at CHOP. Derek died unexpectedly 2 weeks later, but by that time we had collected over 80 blankets and delivered them to CHOP for the kids to enjoy while they were in the hospital at Christmas time. More blankets were donated during the weeks following his funeral, which we delivered to Lehigh Valley Hospital for the children there to enjoy.

We have continued to provide donated blankets to Lehigh Valley Hospital, Angel 34 Foundation, and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in Derek's honor, because he so much wanted to, and was able, to make a difference in the lives of other kids, despite his own difficult circumstances and his medical challenges. These incredible organizations had a huge positive impact on Derek's life as well as ours, so we now strive to give back just a small portion of what we have received from them. We continue to ask for blanket donations for the kids, but we decided to embroider each blanket with an orangeheart with "Derek's Hugs" to signify where the blanket came from. We hope that Derek's story gives everyone who reads this some comfort and inspiration to "pay it forward" to someone who doesn't expect it!

Derek's favorite organizations were Angel 34 Foundation, DreamCome True, the Jason P. Schaible Memorial Foundation, and Be The Match Foundation. Please follow the links on this page to find out more about these wonderful organizations.
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With Love and Understanding,
Dale, Michele and Andrew Graffis

Jason P. Schaible Memorial Fund