COCKE COUNTY, Tenn. — Gracelyn McMahan was just nine years old when she passed away in 2017. She grew up in Cocke County and battled a lifelong rare liver disease.
Her parents said she always had a desire to help people and now they're taking that wish and making it come true.
Gracelyn dreamed of being a nurse at East Tennessee Children's Hospital. She told her parents that she also always wanted to work in the cafeteria because she loved food. She also loved the color pink.
In her memory, they've found a way to incorporate everything she loved and give back to the community at the same time.
"Very smart, fun loving, full of life," said Billy Thompson, Gracelyn's father.
"Even on the days she didn't feel good or was in pain, all she wanted to do was help people," said her mom, Emily Thompson.
Gracelyn passed away from surgery complications from a liver transplant, but her parents were determined to keep her story going.
"We feel like her story can be used to help people," said Emily.
So they began the Amazing Gracelyn Organization to help other families facing the same difficulties know they're not alone.
"It's helped me tremendously to know there are others out there that know how I feel," said Emily.
In the new year, they're honoring Gracelyn's legacy with two new projects. The first is scholarship in her name to help Cocke County students pursuing a degree in the healthcare field, just like Gracelyn wanted to do.
The second project is blessing boxes. Emily posted on social media asking if anyone could help, and immediately a pastor and his wife from Carson Springs Baptist Church replied.
"Instantly they agreed, we'll provide the work, the supplies, just tell us what you want with it," said Emily. The boxes will be full of free food and supplies for those in need and will of course will be painted pink.
It all brings together her love for helping, food and her favorite color.
"It not only helps the entire community but helps heal my heart as well to know she's still helping serve a purpose," said Emily.
"The fact that we can do it in her honor and in ways she personally enjoyed, helping other people, is just really special," said Billy.
The first blessing box is being unveiled this Saturday, January 18 at Carson Springs Baptist Church in Newport from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Anyone is welcome to join.
Grassy Fork Volunteer Fire Department and Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church will also be helping to build blessing boxes in her honor later this year.
If you would like to apply or know of someone interested in applying to the scholarship, you can reach the family through their Facebook page.