URI Greek system raises money to support URI employees’ infant after surgery

Violet Graney on road to recovery after surgeons remove tumor

KINGSTON, R.I. – December 18, 2014 – Violet Graney’s ordeal is not over, but the infant daughter of University of Rhode Island staff members Dan and Angela Graney took a big step in her fight against a rare form of cancer when she had a tumor surgically removed from her left forearm Oct. 29.

Adding to the Graney’s good news was the recent fundraising effort of the URI Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council, which selected Violet to be one of the recipients of their Philanthropy Week competition. The groups’ donation website for Violet raised a significant sum of money to help support the Graney family.

After several rounds of chemotherapy helped reduce the size of the cancerous mass, known as infant fibrosarcoma, doctors were able to successfully remove all visible traces of the tumor during a seven-hour surgical procedure, said Dan Graney, assistant director of Student Life for Substance Abuse Prevention Services.

“The day of surgery was the longest day we’ve had in a really, really long time,” Graney said. “Angela paced the whole time Violet was in surgery. Thankfully, we had a lot of our family and friends there with us the whole time, which was incredible.”

During the procedure, doctors removed part of Violet’s upper arm muscles and had to reattach tendons from her fingers to the base of her elbow. Graney said the lost muscles will not regenerate on their own, though a reconstructive surgical procedure in the future might be an option to replace them. However, with Violet being so young, he said she might simply grow and adapt to life without the muscles.

“The doctors were initially very concerned about the amount of function she’d have in that arm going forward, but the next day when the nurses were changing the dressings, she was already wiggling her fingers,” Dan Graney said. “Her doctors are very optimistic. They’re very excited about the functionality she has already, but it will take months and months – maybe even years – until we really see how successful it was.”

Violet still faces the prospect of two more rounds of chemotherapy, which began after Thanksgiving, and at least one more surgical procedure, which will not take place until the arm has had a chance to grow.

Angela, assistant director of the URI International Engineering Program Living & Learning Community, will remain out of work while Violet continues her treatment, putting a strain on the family’s finances.

When Stephen Simo, director of Greek Life, heard about Violet, just days before the launch of the group’s Philanthropy Week fundraising effort – which ran Nov. 16 to Nov. 22 – he approached the Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils about making the Graney family their primary beneficiary. The groups immediately agreed.

“They came and asked if Violet could be the recipient and we were just floored by it. It’s incredibly generous,” said Graney, who serves as an advisor to fraternity Zeta Beta Tau, in addition to his duties at Substance Abuse Prevention Services.

Senior Taylor Gilman, a public relations major from Newport, R.I., and vice president of programming for the Panhellenic Council, said Graney is well known to the Greek students and the council knew immediately it wanted to help him and his family.

“It meant a lot to us to be able to help them,” said Gilman, a member of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. “Dan always stands up for us. He’s had a really positive impact on us. It’s only right that we would do this when his family is in need.”

The council quickly set up the donation website and filmed a video interview with Graney to tell Violet’s story. During the interview, Graney wore a “Super Violet” pin he created – a purple V surrounded by a diamond shape, similar to the Superman logo – and described his daughter as “our superhero.”

“It’s funny because our theme for Philanthropy Week is superheroes,” Gilman said. “When we interviewed him, he didn’t know that and he told us all about how Violet is like a superhero. It just fit perfectly, like it was meant to be.”

Members of the community can still donate to Violet’s fund by visiting FirstGiving. The fundraiser will run until Dec. 30.