Hyundai Hope on Wheels Celebration of Life Dinner in Chicago

Every Handprint Tells a Story - Hyundai Hope on Wheels

Hyundai Hope on Wheels says that “pediatric” and “cancer” are two words that should never go together. It’s so true. It almost sounds like an oxymoron. When I think of “pediatric” I think of lively, happy kids bursting with energy and life. I think of colorful play areas and playful doctors with lollipops. “Cancer” makes me think of pain, suffering, and potentially death.

Sadly, there are kids who live both of these very different things. They are young and energetic and bursting with life. And then they’re also seriously ill. They have to deal with painful tests and procedures, and a potentially devastating battle.

Hyundai Hope on Wheels Celebration of Life Dinner

Hyundai Hope on Wheels Celebration of Life Chicago dinner

I was recently invited to be a guest at the Hyundai Hope on Wheels Celebration of Life Dinner in Chicago. September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and the dinner was one of several hosted throughout the country this month. Chicago area children battling cancer and their families were invited to be recognized, along with doctors and researchers from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital.

Table setting at Chicago Park Hyatt for Hyundai Hope on Wheels dinner

Actress Jennifer Freeman hosted, and Luke Wade (from NBC’s The Voice) performed at the dinner. We heard a panel of pediatric oncologists talk about pediatric cancer and the importance of reasearch. Hyundai presented doctors and hospitals with white HHOW lab coats and hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve cures and care for pediatric cancer patients.

Check presentation to doctors from Hyundai Hope on Wheels

Still, the kids stole the show. They sang and danced on stage with Luke Wade, and we heard from 14-year-old Ryan Darby, who was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of six. Ryan is cancer free now, and serves as a National Youth Ambassador for Hyundai Hope on Wheels. He told us about his battle and how he encourages other children to never give up.

Hyundai Hope on Wheels Ambassador

We also heard from Ellie Poole Ewoldt. Her son, Chase, was diagnosed with cancer at the age of two. His diagnosis gave him a 20% chance of survival. Thankfully, he beat those odds and he’s seven now. Ellie walked us through what it’s like to see your healthy child get sick suddenly. She talked about what it’s like to be in the ambulance with your child, and to hear the diagnosis. Despite countless tests and procedures Chase had to endure, he still managed to have fun riding a bike down the hallway of the hospital.

Ellie, Chase's mom, speaking at Hyundai Hope on Wheels in Chicago

Facts About Pediatric Cancer

I didn’t know a lot about pediatric cancer before I attended this event. Cancer has touched my life in many ways. Still, pediatric cancer is so terrifying that I (and maybe other parents too), have been afraid to look at it directly. Since I haven’t been forced to confront it, I’ve turned away. This event was very eye-opening. I learned some interesting things and heard some amazing stories about families who have had to face this head on.

  • In the 1950s, pediatric cancer was a disease very few children survived.
  • Today, almost 80% of pediatric cancers can be cured.
  • On average, a child is diagnosed with pediatric cancer every 36 minutes.
  • One in five children diagnosed with pediatric cancer will not survive.
  • Pediatric cancer is the leading disease-related cause of death for children in the United States.

Hyundai Hope on Wheels

Nearly twenty years ago, a group of Hyundai dealers on the East coast banded together to support a local initiative called the Jimmy Fund at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The cause quickly went nationwide and became the Hyundai Hope on Wheels (HHOW). Hyundai Hope on Wheels is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization to help fight pediatric cancer.

The goal of Hyundai Hope on Wheels is simple, but critical – fund reasearch and create awareness for childhood cancer. They do this with the support of over 830 dealers and customers, with a donation from every new vehicle sold going to the organization.

Hyundai Hope on Wheels uses these funds for a variety of HHOW research grants, ranging from $50,000 to $2.5 million dollars each. Since it’s inception, they’ve awarded more than 780 grants to pediatric oncologists and pediatric oncology departments at children’s hospitals nationwide, adding up to over $130 million.

What you can do

Part of the goal of Hyundai Hope on Wheels is to raise awareness of childhood cancer. To learn more about their program, visit their website and follow on social media.

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