Cancer. It’s a word that conjures up a whole lot of emotion. In my family, we’ve had more than our fair share of heartache from this dread disease, including a newly diagnosed family member having surgery this coming week.
I’ve had those fall on my knees moments where I found myself bargaining with God. But for as much as we’ve suffered, I realize that my loved ones were graced with a shorter than imagined, but full life. There are some who aren’t. Children.
Pediatric Cancer. Words that are even more terrifying.
I was honored when I was asked to help commemorate Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month by attending the Hyundai Hope on Wheels “Celebration of Life” dinner in Dallas recently for a sponsored campaign.
I’m incredibly familiar with breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, bladder cancer, and even brain cancer. Too familiar. But it’s only through friends, where I become more acquainted with pediatric cancer.
I truly understand that there’s a difference between adult and pediatric cancer. Children are different. The cancers are different.
Hyundai Hope on Wheels is a non-profit organization devoted to funding pediatric cancer research, supported by Hyundai Motor America and its more than 830 dealers.
Why are they so devoted?
A child is diagnosed with cancer every 36 minutes.
Pediatric cancer is the leading disease-related cause of death for children in the U.S., and we need to do what we can, as even those who survive this disease are left facing challenges that can be lifelong.
So it was with this background, that I headed out to the Omni Dallas Hotel at Park West for what would be a memorable night on so many fronts.
You see, throughout the month of September, Hyundai Hope On Wheels will award 40 research grants to children’s hospitals across the country, adding $8.5 million in critical funds to the field of pediatric cancer research. On this night, we were able to witness this firsthand.
Hyundai is making a difference. Since joining the fight against pediatric cancer in 1998, Hyundai has funded over 840 research projects totaling more than $130 million.
Grateful. Especially because I personally know two moms of boys who have walked this path.
There was one extra special reason I was happy to attend this event…my daughter.
It’s not every event that I can take her to, but this event was special. There would be children there, children who have bravely fought this disease.
My daughter is no stranger to loving those with cancer. She lost an aunt this past Spring to colon cancer. She’s been quietly living this life as a child who loves others with cancer. A child who has had to say goodbye to someone who is dying.
I wanted to show my daughter that there are children her age fighting this disease.
I wanted to show my daughter the faces of research doctors tirelessly working to find a cure.
I wanted her to see that people care.
So with that, we arrived at the event and watched as actress Jasmine Freeman emceed the night.
As the dinner began, it was lovely.
But, truth be told, it was hard to enjoy.
You see, I was in a room full of bloggers, doctors and cancer researchers, children who have fought this disease (including 2 the age of my daughter), and their moms.
One of those moms walked up on stage.
With her words, my heart hurt.
I know how difficult it is to watch someone you love battle cancer. But I don’t know what it’s like to be the mother to one fighting. And it hurt like hell to imagine.
Everywhere I looked I saw beautiful families who are walking this path.
They are in the thick of it.
There is nothing like putting a face to a disease.
Some superheroes wear capes, but some wear lab coats!
To be able to see the passion behind those who give up so much to find a cure…a privilege.
I was in awe as I listened to these research doctors talk about the cancers they study.
Their determination. Their frustration. Their hope.
And then we watched as Hyundai Hope on Wheels presented these doctors with checks for something so important.
Grant recipients of the evening included:
Hyundai Scholar Hope Grant ($250,000)
– Dr. Christopher Porter, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
– Dr. Julie Wolfson, University of Alabama – Birmingham
Hyundai Young Investigator Grant ($150,000)
– Dr. Kathryn Dickerson, UT Southwestern Children’s Medical Center Foundation
– Dr. Wendy Allen-Rhoades, Texas Children’s Hospital
That’s just a few of the grants that will be awarded this month around the country.
Luke Wade (from NBC’s The Voice), took the stage to perform.
Watching him throughout the evening interact with these children, I am more a fan than ever before. He has an incredible heart.
Every handprint tells a story.
A wonderful night supporting a cause so dear to many of us.
My daughter. Well, I’m sure there was a lot going through her mind as she listened to doctors, moms, and children. In the end, I saw her spontaneously grab a marker and write on the Wall of Hope board. Her message to children fighting cancer, “Just Keep Swimming”. XOXO
You can participate too – and they’ll donate $1 on your behalf:
Add your digital handprint! Hyundai Hope On Wheels will donate $1 for every virtual handprint added from September 1st through October 1st, to a children’s hospital from among 2017 Hope On Wheels grant winners.
Those who also purchase a new Hyundai vehicle also help in the fight, as Hyundai donates a portion of the sale.
To help this fight or learn more, visit Hyundai Hope On Wheels!