A prank so epic that it has been shared across the world, thanks to social media, news media, and even “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” took a lot of contemplation, planning, dedication, and imagination to fulfill one teenage girl’s wish. Eighteen-year-old Grace was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2013. Her passion for theatre inspired this Saturday Night Live fan to put her acting skills to the test in order to prank her senior class with the help of famed comedian, Bill Hader.
With top-secret planning in the weeks leading up, between Grace, Bill and his publicist team, Make-A-Wish, the local fire department in Elma, and Iroquois High School administrators, the day finally arrived. Bill visited the school with a single purpose - to teach the students about fire safety, or so they thought. “He made them do the most ridiculous things, like stop, drop, and roll, and they actually believed him,” Grace exclaims. A makeup artist disguised Bill, so students would not be able to recognize him. “They made him look like a weathered fireman,” explains Make-A-Wish Program Services Director Cheryl Unger. “They made his hair and beard gray, and put on a fake mustache, all while Bill wore fireman’s turn out gear from the Elma Fire Department.”
The students grew suspicious as rumors began to fly around the school that a celebrity was there. The students all gathered for an assembly where Bill revealed himself to the students. Afterwards, Grace’s classmates came up to her saying, “That was so cool,” and chanted her name over and over. “I kept this a total secret, not even my best friends knew,” says Grace while laughing.
This wish has strengthened Grace’s love for acting, as she will be studying theatre in the fall in New York City. The road to stardom was unclear at times throughout her illness. Grace had to have surgery on her vocal chords and was not sure if she would be able to sing again. “This was one of the scariest things we had to go through,” says Grace’s mom, Julie. Grace could not participate in the spring musical that year, but this opened new doors for her. Her love for theatre only grew as she helped out backstage with lighting and directing.
Since the successful prank took place, Grace is as enthusiastic and determined as ever. “It was wonderful seeing her carry out this plan, especially after two years of seeing her worried due to the illness”, says Julie. “It is overwhelming how supportive my family, friends, and even my school have been throughout everything, I just couldn’t do it without them.” says Grace. With such a supportive and loving team at home, Grace is sure to succeed in the years ahead!