advocacy

Zac Brown Band member John Driskell Hopkins’ song ‘I’ll Take You Home’ inspired by cancer-stricken swimmer

Vicki Bunke, John Driskell Hopkins
Vicki Bunke, John Driskell Hopkins

Zac Brown Band founding member John Driskell Hopkins has released “I’ll Take You Home,” an emotive new song inspired by a story of extraordinary love, resilience, tragedy and hope. The story began with the diagnosis of Vicki Bunke‘s daughter Grace Bunke, then 11, with the rare bone cancer osteosarcoma.

Grace’s story embodies the spirit of her fight to live an inspirational life before her tragic passing on the eve of her fifteenth birthday and illustrates the far-reaching legacy she left through her work for the nonprofit Swim Across America. The legacy she left behind by asking her mother to continue to carry her torch by swimming for her with Swim Across America.

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Hopkins’ involvement with this story is drawn from his family’s personal connection to Grace and he was greatly moved by her spirit. She and his daughters attended the same elementary school in Marietta, Georgia, USA.

From Grace’s diagnosis, she remained a passionate athlete and committed to living her life to the fullest. Even when the complications of her cancer led to a partial leg amputation and unusual rotationplasty where the bottom portion of her leg was reattached backwards, she embraced the world of swimming, taking part in sponsored swim meets in aid of Swim Across America and eventually achieving a USA Paralympic cap shortly before her passing from pediatric osteosarcoma in 2018 at age 14.

“I swim because it helps me to forget,” Grace said at the time. “It helps me to forget that my cancer keeps coming back threatening to steal the air from my lungs and stop my heart from beating. I swim because in the water, I have a chance to be extraordinary despite the physical disability that my cancer caused. I swim because it is a chance to challenge myself, to fight through pain and discomfort and emerge on the other side stronger and tougher and more resilient than I was before.”

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To honor Grace’s legacy, a portion of the proceeds of “I’ll Take You Home” are being donated to Swim Across America. Faith and umbrellas play an important theme in Hopkins’ new song.

As tribute to Grace, Vicki is taking part in 14 Swim Across America open water swims this summer/fall with the goal of raising $100,000 towards research for pediatric cancer. The mother explained, “We swim to honor Grace.”

“We swim because she can’t,” Vicki continued. “We swim for a better future in which someone like Grace is alive and well and swimming with us. We swim because hope has no finish line.”

Grace’s story and her mom Vicki’s were profiled in the first two episodes of Discovery Life Network‘s new docu-series “WaveMakers,” which aired in July 2021. “I’ll Take You Home” was also used as the series’ theme song for all six episodes and Hopkins provided the voice-over narration for the show.

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