BOONE, NC (Mark Washburn/The Charlotte Observer) - They are stories both heartbreaking and inspirational, and Molly Grantham never tires of telling them. And most viewers, apparently, never tire of hearing them.
Grantham, evening co-anchor on WBTV (Channel 3), has developed a brand called #MollysKids around her stories on children struggling with cancer and other disorders. In September, Channel 3 will air her stories each night on the 11 p.m. newscast during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Grantham began reporting on such cases illnesses shortly after arriving at WBTV in 2003. As the years went on, her reports became synonymous with severe pediatric disorders. She found that many families welcomed the opportunity to tell their stories, regardless of the outcome.
"I realized there was an emotional and heartfelt need," says Grantham.
Over the years, Grantham has developed a set of rules about the stories.
One, she never writes about any child or family unless the parents contact her. She doesn't want to intrude on people in a delicate life situation unless they're open to telling their stories.
Also, she doesn't advocate for any particular charity or promote GoFundMe pages. She's had requests from all over the world from people wanting her to write about their struggles, but she only focuses on families in the Charlotte region.
And she doesn't just cover the uplifting success stories – she wants people to understand that many cases have bad outcomes, because that is the reality.
"Isabella Santos was in remission five times, then died a terrible death," says Grantham. "It's not fair to tell only the happy stories."
Santos fought various cancers for five years, and her name is now on a foundation that supports research.
Some of Grantham's subjects are covered on WBTV broadcasts and some on Grantham's Facebook page, which she works on during the quiet hours after the 11 p.m. newscast.
One of the stories with the most impact was about John Burgess, a Statesville teenager who had a rare blood type and needed a kidney.
An article Grantham wrote spread through social media and an anonymous donor in another part of the country came forward – a father of four with the same rare blood type – and donated one of his kidneys.
Both the donor and Burgess are doing fine now.
"Molly's developed quite a following," says Dennis Milligan, WBTV's news director, who says the thing that inspires him about her work is the way the children face their plight.