Hyundai 'Hope on Wheels' Rolls into Georgetown

July 19, 2011

Brianna Cummerford, Youth Ambassador with the Hyundai Hope on Wheels program, places her paint-dipped hands on the lab coat of David Nelson, MD, chair of the GUH Department of Pediatrics.
Brianna Cummerford, Youth Ambassador with the Hyundai Hope on Wheels program, places her paint-dipped hands on the lab coat of David Nelson, MD, chair of the GUH Department of Pediatrics.

New Jersey native and cancer survivor Brianna Cummerford, 13, spoke to a crowd of cancer patients, survivors, congressional representatives and doctors recently at Georgetown University Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at the annual Hyundai Hope on Wheels event.

Before a large audience including Washington-area Hyundai dealers and special guest U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), Cummerford encouraged members of the audience to “never give up the fight against cancer,” a fight she has already won.

At the age of nine, Cummerford was living an ordinary childhood. She excelled in third-grade and was a member of the soccer and cheerleading teams. Yet, a 2008 diagnosis of Stage IV Hodgkin lymphoma would change the young girl’s life.

Forced to withdraw from third grade, Cummerford spent her fourth-grade year undergoing radiation, chemotherapy, transfusions and surgeries.

A Tour of Hope
Now prospering, she is three years into remission and touring the country as the Youth Ambassador with the Hyundai Hope on Wheels program, which raises awareness and supports childhood cancer research.

Each year, the program visits more than 50 children’s hospitals and donates funds for new pediatric cancer research projects. A stop on the tour brought Cummerford to Georgetown where she presented a $50,000 check to Scott Myers, a Georgetown Lombardi oncologist. Myers will use the funds to research adverse late effects among pediatric cancer survivors.

“Hyundai has been a dedicated supporter of Georgetown Lombardi since 2004,” says Louis M. Weiner, MD, Georgetown Lombardi Director. “With this grant, we have now received $365,000 from Hyundai Hope on Wheels to help our physicians and researchers get closer to a cure for childhood cancer. We are proud to be a recipient of Hyundai’s generosity.”

Rep. Kelly attended the check presentation to show his support for Cummerford’s battle with cancer, as well as the nearly 270,000 children who are currently battling the disease.

Kelly, father of three and grandfather of five, emphasized the need for pediatric cancer funding. “I cannot imagine a child or grandchild with cancer,” he said. “It would cut through my heart and I can only imagine the grief parents in the audience felt when they heard the words ‘your child has cancer.’”

More than 46 children are diagnosed with cancer each day and, one in five will not survive their disease.

Kelly’s involvement with pediatric cancer started in 2008 when he was a Hyundai dealer, sitting on the Hyundai Hope on Wheels board as secretary and treasurer.

Hyundai Hope on Wheels is the united effort of Hyundai Motor America and its more than 800 automotive dealers across the U.S. to raise awareness about childhood cancer and to celebrate the lives of children battling the disease. Since the program’s inception in 1998, Hyundai has pledged more than $43 million for childhood cancer research.

“Hope on Wheels gives us an opportunity to give back to the DC community as we stand together to fight against childhood cancer,” said Kevin Reilly, president of Alexandria Hyundai. “We are proud to join these brave children and doctors in finding a cure.”

Leaving a Mark
Following the presentation of the $50,000 grant, DC-area children affected by cancer placed their hands dipped in colorful paint on Georgetown Lombardi doctors' lab coats to commemorate their brave battles with cancer. Typically the kids place their handprints on a White Hyundai Santa Fe, but the rainy day kept the children inside.

For Cummerford, she has no plans to slow down. She will continue to tour the country with Hyundai to other Handprint Ceremonies and share her story of survival. She also hopes for a future in politics and found herself in the political spotlight when she was elected recently as president of her middle school. She says she would not have considered running for the position but for her brief experience as Ambassador for the Hope on Wheels tour.

“Now, I’m not just some kid with cancer,” says Cummerford. “I’m a kid who beat it.”

But Rep. Kelly need not worry; Cummerford has no plans to run for public office any time soon.

Author: Tressa Kirby (GUMC Communications)