By Ann Saye
With a recent $100,000 gift, Hyundai Motor America is helping Texas Children’s Hospital fight pediatric cancer through its Hope on Wheels program. Thanks to Houston-area Hyundai dealers who have nominated the hospital for annual grants since 2007, Texas Children’s Cancer Center has received nearly $340,000 to support the work of some of the best and brightest researchers in childhood cancer and to help ensure the funding of several critical patient care positions.
The seeds for Hope on Wheels were planted in 1998, when a small group of New England-area Hyundai dealers were inspired to help raise funds for a local cancer hospital. Their goal was simple: to do something good and to make a small contribution.
One of the dealers began to think about how their small contributions could make an even bigger impact. He presented a plan to the Hyundai dealer council suggesting that for every vehicle sold, a small amount of money be donated to help kids fight cancer. The council liked the idea, and the Hyundai Hope on Wheels program began to grow.
“Along the way, Hyundai’s leadership has learned a lot about pediatric cancer and its impact,” said Zafar Brooks, director of general affairs. Zafar oversees the day-to-day operations of the Hope on Wheels Foundation, which is chaired by Oscar Leeser, a Hyundai dealer in El Paso, Texas. “Many people don’t know that cancer is the leading cause of non-accidental death in children,” said Brooks. “We want to be part of finding a cure.”
David G. Poplack, M.D., director of Texas Children’s Cancer Center, serves on the Hope on Wheels Medical Advisory Council and along with other leading pediatric cancer specialists has helped shape the program.
“Research is the key,” Poplack said. “Finding a cure for pediatric cancer depends on researchers having the resources they need to develop and test new treatments. Hyundai’s support makes a tremendous difference not only here at Texas Children’s, but also at other leading pediatric cancer centers all over the country.”
Hyundai also has developed a Scholars Program specifically designed to advance innovative research and new ideas by funding the work of young scholars who have been out of residency less than 7 years. “The idea,” said Brooks, “is to encourage new thinking, new possibilities. That’s the Hyundai philosophy, and we’re honored to be able to put that spirit of innovation to work in helping to find a cure for childhood cancer.”
Today, a donation is made by Hyundai and its dealers—more than 800 across the United States—to Hope on Wheels with every vehicle sold. By the end of 2010, the program had contributed more than $23 million to pediatric cancer programs all over the country, bringing hope that can never be calculated in dollar amounts to thousands of children with cancer and their families.