Hope on Wheels: Battling Pediatric Cancer
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Lori Thomas was beaming as she told of what a strong fighter 10-year-old Kenny is. She had a battle to wage, as well. “I’d go outside the hospital room and put on my game face. I did that because my son would look at my eyes, and use that as a barometer to how he should feel.”
Brianna Commerford was named the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital Hope and Heroes Children’s Cancer Fund spokesperson. Brianna says her cancer was hard on the whole family, especially on her mom, Lorraine—but it also brought them all closer together.
And the good news didn’t end there. Hyundai, who has already given $100 million to the pediatric cancer cause, is matching dealer contributions in the tri-state area. The money will go specifically to fund research and raise awareness, both of which are surprisingly lacking. “Research relies entirely on government funding, of which pediatric cancers only get 3.9%,” explained Hyundai Hope On Wheels Board Member & President and CEO of Hyundai Motor America, Dave Zuchowski. “Other cancers, like breast and prostate, get much more.” Additional research could identify possible genetic links to certain pediatric cancers. And hopefully, added Zuchowski, attract the best and brightest to the field. Many medical students steer to the specialties with the highest income potential. Unfortunately, pediatrics isn’t one of them.
But shining a light on pediatric cancer can and will change the lives of many families.
“Ashley’s battle with cancer awakened our entire family to a lot of positive experiences,” shared Burnette. “ We were shown such love and support from so many strangers, and that in turn made us want to spread love and support to others. Ashley's positive attitude during her treatments inspired us all to try to enjoy life even during the tougher times, and to steer clear of any negative energy.”
Main photo: From left, Lorraine Commerford and daughter Brianna; Nicole Burnette with daughter Ashley; Lori Thomas and son Kenny.