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Girl gives back to Mercy's babies Raises $75 at lemonade stand for hospital that cared for her after her premature birth

Her donation certainly wasn't the biggest gift Mercy Hospital ever received. But it left a lasting impression on the hospital, knowing the money was earned by a little girl selling lemonade.

Grace Koncikowski, 6, raised $75 for Mercy with the lemonade stand she set up last month in front of her Blasdell home -- a thank you to the South Buffalo hospital that cared for her as a preemie.

The hospital showed its appreciation Tuesday when it brought Grace and her family in for a special thanks and tour of the neonatal intensive care unit.

"I want to thank you so much for all your help," said C.J. Urlaub, Mercy's president and chief executive officer.

"You're welcome," Grace said.

"You know, I love lemonade," Urlaub told her.

"We had cookies, too," she said.

Grace was born two months early, when she was delivered by emergency C-section on April 3, 2005. She was 4 pounds, 10 ounces and spent six weeks at Mercy.

She's seen all her baby pictures in scrapbooks and heard all the stories from her parents, Mark and Jeanette.

So, it came as no surprise to her parents when Grace came up with the idea.

"I was at the bookstore, and I was thinking, 'What can we do for the babies?' " Grace said Tuesday. "And I said, 'A lemonade stand.' "

She and her mom made the lemonade and cookies for July 22, a Friday afternoon when there was sure to be plenty of traffic at the M&T Bank across the street on Lake Avenue.

Grace did the rest.

"Lemonade! Cookies! One dollar!" she called out. "Help the babies!"

A family friend broke open the piggy bank and gave the money to Grace.

A guy on a motorcycle stopped and gave her $20.

Grace collected her proceeds and passed them to Mercy, along with a handwritten note:

"Dear Mercy Hospital," the letter read. "my name is grace. I had a lemonade sale to help your babies. love, grace. P.S. -- thanks for teking care of me."

The letter caught the attention of hospital administrators.

"You don't think about a lemonade stand being able to make $75 -- and a 6-year-old girl did that," Urlaub said. "It touched us that we were still in her heart."

Grace will be a first-grader at Blasdell Elementary School. She's an expressive little girl, who attended theater camp this summer.

She's got a big heart, her parents said. She's kind to her classmates and is accustomed to donating her old toys to children in need.

"It's kind of typical for her," her father, Mark, said of the donation. "She gets focused on something, and until we've done it, she's not satisfied."

Grace, in a blue sundress and violet-colored Converse sneakers, showed up Tuesday at Mercy with Mom, Dad and 2-year-old sister, Veda, in tow. She got a peek at the babies and was given a certificate and gift basket by Urlaub.

Not to be outdone, Grace gave Urlaub a drawing of Mercy Hospital.

email: jrey@buffnews.com

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