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Maryland girl with autism invites public to do drive-by food donations for her birthday

Grace Kozushko wants a drive-by parade complete with food donations for a food pantry.

GLEN BURNIE, Md. — During this time of quarantine, many of us know what it feels like to miss out on celebrating special moments and milestones with those close to us. For a 9-year-old birthday girl in Anne Arundel County, she is taking it all in stride and using her special day to give back with your help.

It is a big day for Grace Kozushko, a third-grader who lives in Glen Burnie, Md. with her parents and little sister. Grace turns nine years old on Wednesday and tells WUSA9 she is really excited. Her sister Faith turns seven in two weeks.

While she hoped to celebrate at the bowling alley with friends this year, she has something bigger in mind. Grace wants to have a drive-by parade complete with food donations that will be delivered to the St. Philip Peri Food Pantry in Linthicum, Md. Bins will be set up outside of her home on 24 Eugenia Avenue in Glen Burnie, Md. on Wednesday. If you can't make it, she wants people to donate to their own local food pantries.

Credit: Lynn Kozushko

“They decided that in their words, they ‘wanted people to come, drop off cans, cereal and stuff’,” said the girls’ mother, Lynn Kozushko. “We’re going to have bins outside on the street and the girls are asking that they honk [drivers] and say happy birthday, people won’t have to get out.”

A few weeks ago, Grace and her family were part of a drive-by parade that celebrated the end of her godfather’s cancer treatments. It was that combined with conversations about having the girls’ grandparents renew their annual memberships to The Maryland Zoo and Baltimore Aquarium to support the staff and operations that led to their own drive-by idea to help others.

Credit: Lynn Kozushko

“We’re definitely proud," said Mrs. Kozushko. “They have a large amount of empathy to be such young children, and that’s ultimately what we hope for everyone is to just understand the needs of our community around us and know that we’re here together and if you need support, ask for support and give what you can.”

As Anne Arundel County moves toward Phase 1 of Maryland’s reopening plan, the Kozushkos are still taking precautions. Since Grace was one, she has had 14 surgeries for a rare bone disease called Multiple Hereditary Exostoses (MHE) which causes non-cancerous bone tumors. Grace also has autism and a sensory processing disorder. But despite her own challenges, she does not let it stop her from giving back and making others happy.

“We were active in our communities before the pandemic and involved in a lot of ministries at the hospital and we can’t do those right now,” said Harley Kozushko, the girls’ father. “It’s not a risk we’re willing to take.”

“So stocking the food pantry and making it possible for them [the girls] to distribute food is great,” he said. 

If you would like to participate in Grace’s drive-by food drive and birthday celebration, you can stop by from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., honk your horn and leave your donation.

Faith’s birthday is June 7. She too will have a drive-by celebration to collect food items from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the same location.

Credit: Lynn Kozushko

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