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School community rallies around Chamlian student

Concert is held in honor of Grace Kesablak, 10, who is fighting cancer.

March 25, 2014|By Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com
  • Fifth grader Grace Kesablak brings her hands to her face at the Homenetmen Ararat Chapter in Los Angeles at a benefit concert in her honor on Monday, March 24, 2014. Grace, a Chamlian Armenian School student, underwent her last treatment for cancer recently, and the benefit concert, hosted by TV host Diana Madison, included a magic act by John Gabriel, a song and dance performance by Luara Melody, and Sebu Simonian of Capital Cities who sang "Safe and Sound."
Fifth grader Grace Kesablak brings her hands to her face… (Tim Berger / Staff…)

It has been nearly one year since 10-year-old Grace Kesablak was diagnosed with cancer, and to honor her fight against the disease, hundreds of Glendale residents attended an event Monday night to celebrate her courage.

Last April, Grace was diagnosed with a muscular cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma not long after her 10th birthday, stemming from a tumor discovered near her pelvic bone.

PHOTOS: Kisses for Grace concert held to honor student Grace Kesablak's battle with cancer

Since then, she’s braved chemotherapy treatments and took time off school to recuperate — returning to La Crescenta’s Vahan & Anoush Chamlian Armenian School just last week.

All the while, the school’s community has rallied around Grace. Parents who didn’t have children in the fifth grade or even knew Grace or her family went about organizing a concert in her honor.

It began when Chamlian parent and alumni Linette Khachekian was watching Sebu Simonian of the band Capital Cities perform on television on New Year’s Eve.

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Khachekian knew Simonian was also a Chamlian alumni who went on to graduate from Glendale High in 1996, two years before she did.

Although she didn’t know the band was one of Grace’s favorites, Khachekian knew of the girl’s cancer battle and asked in an email if he would perform for Grace.

He replied just a few hours later and agreed to perform.

“I didn’t know the family. I didn’t know if they’d be OK with it,” Khachekian recalled on Monday. “My theory is, ‘I went to the same school — we’re a family. When one of our own is not doing well, we have to be there.’ That’s basically what this is.”

For weeks, Khachekian worked with fellow parent Edlin Hajjar to spread the word about the concert.

“I think we’re a very tight-knit family,” Hajjar said of Chamlian’s school community. “The fact that we were able to get everyone out and support [Grace] means the world. I can tell you… this has never been done. It was because it was such a sincere and pure cause.”

On Monday, several Chamlian fathers showed up with large trays of cookies, wearing pink T-shirts that read, “Kisses for Grace.”

A black limousine ordered by Chamlian parents brought Grace and her parents to the event inside the gym at Glendale’s Homenetmen Ararat chapter.

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