Defying the odds, Greysen’s artistic talent benefits charitable causes

HEART greysen quilt patches

This quilt showcases patches from police departments around the globe sent to Greysen Hitchens, a 9-year-old Georgetown boy who has an inoperable brain tumor. Greysen has artistic talent that he employs to make paintings that are donated to charitable causes.

GEORGETOWN – Already sworn in as an honorary member of the Georgetown Police Department, Greysen Hitchens wants to be a real cop.

That’s the grown-up wish from the 9-year-old Georgetown boy whose medical condition – an inoperable brain tumor – and artistic talent have touched the lives of many, here in Sussex County and far beyond.

When Greysen was five, about the time he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, he took up painting.

“Someone wanted a painting. I had never done it before. We just decided maybe we should try one,” said Greysen. “It is just cool to take something plain white and turn it into something way different.”

HEART Grey with paiting $1,500 for Baby Alana event

Greysen Hitchens shows one of his paintings donated to a charitable cause.

The kitchen table at the Hitchens’ home west of Georgetown is Greysen’s art studio.

Over the past four years, Greysen has done a number of paintings, each and every one for worthy, charitable causes.

“All of them have been auctioned off for other foundations,” said Lesley Hitchens, Greysen’s mom.

The most a painting has fetched: $15,000, that at an auction supporting the DFRC (Delaware Foundation Reaching Citizens) with intellectual disabilities in conjunction with the Blue-Gold Football Game.

At a recent fundraiser for Baby Alana Prettyman and her family, Greysen’s donated artwork netted a high bid of $1,500 – the highest amount at that successful auction event.

Greysen’s paintings have also supported charitable causes like the Good Ole Boys Foundation in Sussex County, Chuck’s Lungs, families facing chronic or terminal illness, and others.

An upcoming painting project is for the B + Foundation in memory of a pediatric cancer patient, whose blood type was B +.

“That will be auctioned off at the end of September,” Ms. Hitchens said.

“The thing with his painting, where the tumor is located we should see motor skill issues, especially the fine motor skills,” said Ms. Hitchens. “And for a 5-year-old at that time to pick up and be able to hold a paint brush let alone paint something with it is a big deal. And I think certainly that plays a part into why his paintings sell for what they do. They hear the story and they understand that it is not just a talent, but a talent that defies odds.”

The medical side of Greysen’s story began in the summer of 2010 when the family dog, Jersey, sensed something was wrong and alerted Grey’s parents.

Ms. Hitchens said she found her son in “a post-seizure state … I would never have known.”

The tumor diagnosis was confirmed in October 2010. Greysen had surgery in July of 2011.

“At his MRI follow-up they told us the tumor was as large as it was prior to surgery and was defused, meaning invasive; infiltrating the brain tissue around it, which renders it inoperable because to remove it in its entirety would take too much of his (brain). It is in the center of the cerebellum, which is the center of all of his motor skills, movement, balance, coordination,” said Ms. Hitchens.

Chemotherapy was scheduled to start in January 2012. However, an MRI taken prior to the beginning of treatment, and “according to the doctor the tumor looked ever so slightly smaller and he chose to wait; just to see what was going on. And since that point nothing has changed. We’ve been sitting at this idle point. The tumor is still very much there, but it is considered stable. There has been very minimal changes; not enough for them to want to draw us into aggressive treatment.”

Presently, Greysen – or Grey as he is also known – goes to A.I. duPont Children’s Hospital once a year and sees his neurologist in Dover every three months.

“Every time we go, that is what we are looking for – a stable scan,” Ms. Hitchens said.

There are occasional headaches, nausea and vertigo but nothing that can keep him down too long.

“About once a month, maybe,” Greysen said.

“He’s on medication. When he gets them he gets hit hard,” said Ms. Hitchens. “He has actually done very well lately. The seizures he was having, I have not picked up on any seizures as of late.”

Ms. Hitchens said doctors have referred to Greysen as their “mystery case’ because his type of tumor is generally a lot more aggressive in the infiltration. It can drastically affect kids in a very short period of time.”

“The next step, if it were to change, probably would be chemotherapy and possibly surgery again to reduce the size,” Ms. Hitchens said. “We can’t remove it in its entirety. The doctor originally told us that chemotherapy and surgery would kind of be a maintenance throughout his life.”

On Sept. 8, Greysen headed off to school year as a fourth grader at Georgetown Elementary School, having made the grade as a third grader the previous year.

“He went to school this past year; the first time in a school, because we had home-schooled him. He was on the honor roll the entire year,” said Ms. Hitchens.

A Facebook page – Pray for Grey/The Journey Continues – has over 24,000 likes and connections and support from all over the world.

The Newsboys, an Australian Christian pop rock band, caught wind of Greysen’s condition and love for one of their songs.

HEART Greysen ravens motorsports items

Greysen Hitchens’ items he received from the Baltimore Ravens and the motorsports community.

“They had a song out about the time he diagnosed called God is Not Dead. Somebody on our page wrote to the Newsboys and told them about Grey and his love of the song,” said Ms. Hitchens. “They sent us tickets and they sent backstage passes. So we got to ‘meet and greet.’ That was a pretty big deal.”

In August 2014, through Make-A-Wish Foundation, Greysen’s wish to swim with dolphins was granted with a vacation in Florida.

Closer to home, support has come from law enforcement, the Baltimore Ravens, the motorsports racing community and others.

“My brother used to drive race cars down at Delmar,” said Michael Hitchens, Greysen’s father. “An official gave one of his new shirts, and all of the drivers went around and signed it. He’s got a couple helmets.”

“The things that people do for kids they have never met,” said Ms. Hitchens.

Law enforcement, of course, holds a special place in Greysen’s heart.

HEART grey jean jacket

Greysen Hitchens proudly wears his “Officer Grey” jean jacket, among the items given to him by the Georgetown Police Department.

In an official ceremony at the Sussex County Courthouse, Greysen was made an honorary member of the Georgetown Police Department, under then Chief William Topping.

“I got sworn in,” said Greysen with a huge smile.

He also received a t-shirt, patches – and a jean jacket with “Officer Grey” on the back.

“The Georgetown Police Department is amazing. After all of that took place Greysen was hospitalized and when he came home, the next morning a large portion of the guys showed up at our door with a dozen donuts and they came in and woke him up out of bed and surprised him,” said Ms. Hitchens. “He actually outranks several of the officers there; he’s a patrolman first class! He has wanted to be a cop since he was big enough to understand what a cop was. The Georgetown police; they just went above and beyond.”

Greysen’s collection of law enforcement patches includes Ontario, Canada. Many are stitched together in force as a huge quilt, assembled by a lady in support of the cause.

“We have patches from around the country, and other parts around the world,” said Mr. Hitchens, who is employed with the Department of Corrections at the Sussex Correctional Institution in Georgetown.

And then there are gifts of challenge coins, including those from the U.S. Border Patrol.

“The way the challenge coins work for law enforcement is each time that they complete training in something – the K-9 units were issued a challenge coin. So, officers actually gave up their own challenge coins to provide them to him. That’s a big deal to us. These officers are willing to do this for someone they never met.”

“And this is all part of the why he does what he does,” said Ms. Hitchens, who is studying to be nurse with plans to go into pediatric oncology. “We’ve been on the receiving end of just some amazing things. There is a lot of good out there even though you hear so much negative. In some small way, this is a 9 year old; what can a 9 year old do? This is his way to pay it forward. If I want him to understand anything it is I want him to see the blessings in all of the trials and the struggles. He has been through a lot at 9 years old, but the flip-side of that is there has just been amazing blessings through it.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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