University of Delaware Sophomore Gracie Firestone Beats Death, Launches Charity, and Climbs Mount Kilimanjaro

Amazing Gracie: Gracie Firestone lives to help others through her charity, Let the Kids Play.

It’s been two years since Gracie Firestone beat death. Firestone, a sophomore at UD, suffered sudden cardiac arrest two days after graduating from Tower Hill School. She now lives with a defibrillator implanted in her chest. “I really easily could not be alive,” says Firestone. “It was a matter of seconds.” Firestone, a standout student-athlete in high school, also created a buzz through her philanthropy. Just before her junior year, she started Let the Kids Play, a charity that collects and distributes lightly used athletic equipment to disadvantaged children locally and abroad. Because of what she calls “the event,” Firestone had to focus on herself and getting well. After a few months of physical and cognitive rehabilitation, she felt more than ever that she needed to help others. “Once I realized I was OK, I was frustrated with people telling me I wasn’t OK,” she says. “That gave me the inspiration to do something drastic to show I was physically and mentally able.” So she climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. As part of the trek, Firestone was required to raise $8,000 for Flying Kites, which runs an orphanage outside Nairobi, Kenya. From September to December of 2012—thanks to dozens of supporters—she surpassed that goal by $2,000. She went on to conquer Kilimanjaro and spend a few weeks tutoring and interacting with the orphans. “The kids had a big effect on me,” Firestone says. “They have so little and they’re appreciative of everything. They don’t look at problems and complain. They look for ways to better the situation.” Sounds familiar. (,

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