September 14, 2005
Hyndai Hope on Wheels Event
Hyundai Hope on Wheels
On September 14, 2005, Avalon participated in a
wonderful event at Children's Hospital of Columbus.  
Avalon was one of several pediatric cancer patients who
were invited to place their handprints on a Hyundai
Santa
Fe
SUV.

The handprint ceremony was part of a
fundraising/awareness campaign sponsored by Hyundai
Motor America.  If you click on the link above, it will take
you to the website for the project - detailing the program
in its entirety.

The Hope on Wheels SUV is covered in handprints of
pediatric cancer patients and survivors.  The handprints
are to make the fight of these patients tangible for the
people who see the SUV.  A handprint is personal and
unique...and so are these kids.

The SUV drives around the country, stopping at partner
hospitals so that Hyundai dealers can present their local
hospitals with donations.  Columbus dealers presented
more than $50,000 at our event.  In all, Hyundai has given
more than 6 million dollars to our cause.  They deserve
praise and recognition for their quiet efforts on behalf of
these kids.

The event was pretty simple:  put a hand print on a car,
smile for pictures, go home.  We signed in, and Avalon
was given the opportunity to do "practice" handprints on a
piece of paper.  Then we waited, while several hospital
people and Hyundai representatives gave speeches.  

Dr. "Mandy" (whom we met at the survivor picnic) gave the
speech on behalf of the Heme-Onc department.  Knowing
her to be brilliant, I'm sure the speech was, as well.  I
believe likewise for the Hyundai speaker, the President of
the Children's Hospital Foundation, and for the Chairman
of the hospital, Dr. Hansen.  Here's the thing...I didn't hear
two words of any of them.  As you can see from the
picture, Avalon was way too busy enjoying her
complimentary cookie, or rather,
cookies.  I spent the
majority of the speeches trying to keep her quiet.
Basically, kids don't give one fig about what we big people
have to say, no matter how much they'll benefit from it.

After the speeches, it was time for the actual handprints.  
The handprints that cover the car are somehow made
permanent - and have the child's name and age under
them.  For the purpose of the ceremony, each child
covered their hand in paint and placed a "temporary"
handprint smack in the middle of the driver's door.  I
haven't the foggiest clue how their print becomes
permanent.  Perhaps they use one of the prints we did on
paper...who knows?  All I know, is that Avalon had one
whale of a good time getting to finger paint a car!

The handsome young man posing with Avalon is Chris
Needles.  We were Chris' neighbors during his diagnosis
stay, and were able to be the hand-from-the-dark for his
family, as Kim Hawk had been for us.   Chris has Ewing's
sarcoma (bone cancer) in his leg.  He's undergone
surgery, and is close to half way through his chemo.  He is
a kind-hearted, soft-spoken young man, whom I have
found to be wise well beyond his years.  Although he
refuses to show it in pictures, he has a charming smile
that makes you fall in love with him instantly.
Speeches?  What speeches?  
Avalon and Chris.  Two of the
faces of pediatric cancer.
Erin, Chris' sister.  Avalon
loves her!
We've kept in contact with Chris and his family, and have been able to visit him a few times
during his hospital stays.  In fact, Chris was actually in-house for 6 days of chemo during the
Hyundai event.  After
much persuasion on the part of his mother and sister, he finally agreed
to come down and do his own handprint.  Although the handprints are done in several
different colors, both Chris and Avalon were given blue.  On the temporary location, the prints
were side by side - showing a beautiful representation of the scope of cancer.  As for the end
result, I suppose I'll never know.  I hope they keep them close together - he means a lot to us.  

When all the prints were done, the children and hospital reps posed for pictures with the
Hyundai dealers.  The representatives from the dealers were kind, and very interested in our
kids.  I admit to, once again, being amazed at the capacity of complete strangers to embrace
our children as their own.  When Avalon refused to pose without daddy, it melted the heart of
the dealer standing next to her.  He told Nick he remembers the days his own daughters
worshiped him.  He reminded Nick to appreciate it, all too soon Avalon will be a teenager and
he'll be begging her to stand next to him.  It was a lovely father to father moment, even though
I'm sure neither man realized it.

After all of the formal pictures, Chris and Avalon were asked if they would mind doing another
set of handprints, so that they could get good shots for the media.  The picture below is from
the second set of prints.  The "real" event went by too quickly to get a good picture.   
Unfortunately, we never managed to find the story on the local news.  I hope one of the
stations did it justice - the dealers deserve the publicity.

In all, it was a wonderful morning.  We got to hug on good friends, make new friends, and tell
some very important people how much we appreciate them.  I'd say that's a pretty good entry
into the memory books...

Thank you, Hyundai...from
ALL of us...........
PS.  None of the events of the day would have gone as smoothly without the tireless efforts of
two Foundation staffers, Jennifer Masters and Matthew Levering.  They generously took time
out from their numerous duties, to come to the Heme-Onc clinic to meet Avalon.   Although
Matt lost by virtue of his being a man (Avalon is a man-hater), Jennifer was patient and
friendly, and Avalon decided she was, indeed, a "good guy".  In fact, when I cautioned Jennifer
that Avalon would be on large doses of steroids the day of the event (and possibly
disagreeable), Jennifer never wavered.  Her view was that this event was to promote cancer
awareness, and cancer just isn't always pretty.  I am grateful to her and to the hospital for
appreciating the beauty in our children, even when they're not "perfect".  
If you look above and behind
the TV camera, you can see
Avalon and Chris' original
hand prints.  Avalon's is the
smeary one, Chris' is the
enormous one that is partially
obscured by the camera.  
They really do represent the
full spectrum of victims...
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Avalon's Army of Angels