Hyundai bestows grant to fight pediatric cancer to UI Health

A unique paint job adorned the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe parked in the University of Illinois at Chicago lot, one that can’t be found on any other car. It was decorated with colorful handprints from children suffering from cancer.

Pediatric cancer patients treated at the University of Illinois Health Science System dipped their hands in blue, green and red paint last week and left a lasting impression on the white car during a ceremony announcing the hospital’s receipt of a Hyundai Impact Award Grant. The $100,000 check was presented to Mary Lou Schmidt, MD, professor and head of pediatric hematology/oncology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine and a member of the University of Illinois Cancer Center.

The children participated in the program’s signature “Handprint Ceremony,” where their colorful handprints on the official “Hope Vehicle” represents their individual and collective journey, hopes and dreams. UI Health is one of 77 beneficiaries of the award granted from Hyundai Hope on Wheels, a nonprofit organization supported by Hyundai and its U.S. dealers.

In total, the nonprofit will award $16 million in new grants to clinical and research organizations this year to develop innovative approaches to finding a cure for childhood cancer. A donation is made to fight cancer from the sale of every new vehicle. Since the program began in 1998, more than $160 million and more than 800 research grants has gone to support research at children’s hospitals across the nation.

Having been awarded a similar grant six years ago, Schmidt knew the impact it could make. “We used our grant in 2013 to further grow our Children’s Oncology Group Program by opening more clinical trials and increasing enrollments at UIC, Rush University Medical Center and the John H. Stroger Hospital of Cook County,” Schmidt said. “These hospitals reside in the Illinois Medical District and serve the most vulnerable infants, children, adolescents and young adults in Chicago.  Our patient population is extremely diverse and often left out of clinical trials that can dramatically improve their chance of survival and their quality of life.

“The 2019-2020 Hyundai Hope on Wheels grant will be used to grow our Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Program by funding a patient navigator to help coordinate care and make sure that each patient treated at the UI Cancer Center is offered all possible opportunities to enroll in clinical trials that can impact these young individuals in the future. We are extremely grateful to the Hyundai Hope On Wheels program for their amazing support.”

During the presentation, 27-year-old Christine Adley, who lost her right leg to cancer at the age of two and subsequently developed breast cancer at the age of 23 – resulting in the loss of both breasts – expressed tremendous gratitude to her medical team at UIC and encouraged the youngsters to have hope that they will overcome the deadly disease, as she has.

“I’m cancer-free and I feel great,” she said.

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