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By Tom Sowders, UNC Health Foundation

At 2 p.m. on September 6, the lobby of the N.C. Basnight Cancer Hospital buzzed with anticipation as folks gathered for a special event at the UNC Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Clinic.

Sarah Frantz, Ashley Burnette, Ian Davis, MD, Phd, and Phan Tran

Ian Davis, MD, PhD, Chief of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, took the podium and welcomed everyone to the event, acknowledging the critical importance of philanthropic giving and acknowledging the generous support of Hyundai Hope on Wheels in the fight against pediatric cancer.

Hyundai Hope on Wheels has been engaged in the battle against pediatric cancer since 2011. During this summer and through September, National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Hyundai Hope on Wheels traveled across the nation to award $25 million in grants to doctor-researchers, bringing their total contribution to fighting pediatric cancer to $225 million.

Their commitment has been a driving force behind funding clinical research that has led to significant progress made in pediatric oncology at UNC over the years. Dr. Davis expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the organization for their support and partnership, which have been instrumental in his and his clinic’s own remarkable achievements in genetic therapies for pediatric cancer.

The event featured an array of inspiring speakers. Phan Tran, Senior Merchandising Manager at Hyundai Motor America, took the podium to share his passion for making a difference. “It is for you that we joined this fight 25 years ago. And it’s with you, that we will stand for as long as it takes, until we find a cure,” Tran said.

Wayne Dubois, Chief Operating Officer and Vice President from Sport Durst Hyundai, added a touch of significance to the event. “Children are our future. They need to know they are not alone,” Dubois said.

Dubois then recognized UNC Children’s and Pediatric Hematology Oncology Psychosocial Support Program Coordinator Sarah Frantz, and awarded her with a $100,000 Impact Grant. A jumbo-sized check was presented during a high-spirited photo shoot.

Frantz then captivated the audience with her dedication to the well-being of young patients and their families. She emphasized the importance of community and support for families undergoing treatment, which are at the core of her work. “I want to express our deepest appreciation to Hyundai Hope on Wheels for making this grant possible. Your generosity will touch the lives of our pediatric patients and their families in remarkable ways,” Frantz said.

Former UNC Children’s patient Ashely Burnette then captivated the audience with her personal story of pediatric cancer and triumph.

As customary for this annual gathering, a few young patients—including Burnette—had their hands painted and placed colorful handprints on the white coats of Dr. Davis and Frantz. The act symbolized unity and a sense of shared hope. It was a touching moment that showcased the strength and resilience of the young patients, while also illustrating the unwavering dedication of the clinic’s staff and Hyundai Hope on Wheels.

“Every handprint tells a story in the fight against pediatric cancer,” Tran said.

In closing, the UNC Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Clinic extended its sincere thanks to Hyundai Hope on Wheels. Their ongoing support ensures that the clinic can continue providing the best possible care to pediatric patients and their families, offering hope in the face of adversity.

“Hyundai Hope on Wheels serves as a reminder of the profound impact of philanthropy and community support in the fight against pediatric cancer,” Davis said. “It touches the hearts of all those who attend.”

This event reaffirms the importance of coming together to make a difference and the power of shared smiles… and handprints.

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