Christy Bray Graves worked alongside her mother, Dina Bray, at UNC Lineberger fundraising events for years, teaming up to help raise funds for cancer research at Roy Williams’ Fast Break Against Cancer, the White Party and Fire and Ice fundraisers. That changed in 2017, when Bray was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Bray died three weeks after her diagnosis, leaving her family behind along with a legacy of giving back.
“She was my best friend, she was at our home every day helping me care for my children, and then suddenly, she was gone,” Graves said. “Ovarian cancer is truly a silent killer, and it destroyed one of the most important pieces of my life. I have since vowed to do everything in my power to fight back.”
Not content to let her mother’s legacy live only in mementos and photographs, Graves established the Dina’s Dynasty Ovarian Cancer Fund in memory of her mom. The fund supports UNC Lineberger in developing a reliable screening method for ovarian cancer and providing outstanding care for ovarian cancer patients. To get that message out to more people, Graves looked closer to home.
Graves and her husband, Mark, both work at Chapel Hill Toffee, his family’s business that began in his mom’s kitchen and soon expanded into selling the treats in more than 400 locations. In 2018, the company made a commitment to donate a portion of the proceeds from each box of Chapel Hill Toffee and Griff’s Coffee Toffee to Dina’s Dynasty. To date, they have raised more than $15,000 to support ovarian cancer research at UNC Lineberger.
“Every box of toffee sold helps us in our mission to end ovarian cancer,” Graves said.
Her mission is twofold, to spread as much awareness as she can about the disease and UNC Lineberger. She has even convinced others in her charity circles to give back to the cancer center. The Polar Challenge Golf Tournament, a community partner event that takes place every year in March, now donates its proceeds to UNC Lineberger, in part, guided by Graves and her good friend, Eddie Sidenstricker, who recruited her to help organize the annual tournament.
“As Eddie and I took on the planning and execution of the golf tournament, it was important to us to bring the funds raised back home into our own local community,” she said.
As she continues to spread awareness about ovarian cancer, Graves is also reminded of the person who got her involved in making her community a priority and helping others.
“Building a fund and creating a cause with my mom’s name on it has been the greatest source of healing for me,” Graves said. “If cancer has left you feeling lost and scared, you don’t have to feel helpless, you can make an impact! Raising money and spreading awareness have given me a way to channel my grief into action. Rather than sitting with my anger and sadness, building this fund has made me feel like I’m actually doing something.”