Life is very precious and for many of us, at one point in our lives, we are faced with serious challenges. The natural progression of life can take a sudden turn on our paths, changing our lives forever.

Pediatric cancer is the leading disease-related cause of death for children in the U.S. As we recognize October as breast cancer awareness month and recently prostate cancer, both diseases highly present among African Americans. The growing concern of cancer takes a hold of children every day. Every 36 minutes a child is diagnosed with the disease and one in five children diagnosed, sadly—will not survive.

Doctors and researchers are presented with $200k grant by Hyundai Hope on Wheels on Sept.22 at the Park Hyatt. Photo Credit: David Alexander

One major automotive company has made it their long-term commitment to raise awareness and since 1998 has raised $130 million to fund pediatric cancer research in the states. Hyundai Hope On Wheels (HHOW) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit started by the brand to create nationwide awareness of helping research and assisting families battling the disease. Initially launched by a group of New England area Hyundai dealers, their mission gradually spread to other dealerships growing to including 830 dealers around the country.

In September, in honor of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, HHOW hosted its Celebration of Life Dinner at the Park Hyatt to award $250,000 in research grants to area hospital programs. The Hyundai Scholar Hope Grant honored doctors and researchers of The University of Chicago Comer’s Children’s Hospital and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital.

In a beautiful setting, the program began with various speaker’s words from the Executive Director of HHOW, Corporate Social Responsibility for Hyundai Motor America, Zafar Brooks. The mistress of ceremonies for the evening, actress and blogger, Jasmine Freeman along with musician/singer, Luke Wade (NBC’s The Voice) entertained attendees with an inspiring live performance.

Photo: David Alexander

Throughout the dinner ceremony, the stories from both parents and children battling the diseases was both uplifting and revealed the emotion challenges families are faced with throughout treatment. Young survivors were in attendance as part of the National Youth Ambassador Program; Hannah Adams and Ryan Darby both 13 travels around the country telling their stories—providing encouragement to other children.

As a symbolic bond of the organization’s logo of three small handprints—youth cancer survivors created their own painted handprints to represent their hopes and dreams. The handprints also are for the thousands of children who lose their battle to pediatric cancer.

Across the country, Hyundai Hope on Wheels has awarded 40 research grants in the amount of $8.5 million. These grants have helped to advance technology, research collaboration, and data analysis for early detection and added resources. Today, nearly 80 percent of pediatric cancer can be cured.

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