NEW YORK – April 16, 2014 – Hyundai Hope On Wheels®, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids fight cancer, today announced that Ashley Burnette and Kenny Thomas are named the 2014-2015 National Youth Ambassadors for the organization. Ashley and Kenny will join Hope On Wheels in its 16th year of fighting childhood cancer. More details about the 2014 Hope On Wheels program will be announced tomorrow at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City, during the New York International Auto Show.
Ashley, a 10-year-old from North Carolina, and Kenny, a nine-year-old from Southern California are both cancer survivors and were selected from a nationwide search. The Hyundai Hope On Wheels National Youth Ambassadors will serve as youth spokespersons for the organization over the next two years. Together, they will travel the country visiting children’s hospitals and sharing their message of hope with other children with cancer and their families. Their personal stories are also included online, as a part of the Hope On Wheels social media community, and printed collateral distributed at U.S. Hyundai dealerships, all of which are designed to increase awareness and invite others to join the fight. This year’s theme for the organization is “Just One Wish.” This theme is based on the primary goal of Hope On Wheels, to end childhood cancer.
“Hyundai and its dealers are proud to have Ashley and Kenny join us as the National Youth Ambassadors for the next two years,” said Dave Zuchowski, President and CEO, Hyundai Motor America. “Their individual strength and incredible determination during their own battles with cancer are truly an inspiration. Each brings a compelling story to share with other families who are impacted by the disease. Together, they embody the message of Hope On Wheels, that this is a fight that we can and will win.”
About Ashley Burnette – Hope On Wheels National Youth Ambassador
At age seven, Ashley was excited to be starting the second grade. Not long before the start of the new school year, her parents noticed that she had developed a limp and a persistent black eye. After a visit to her doctor, Ashley was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma and immediately began treatment. Several months later she developed Post-Transplant Lymphoproliferative Disorder/Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Over the next two years, she endured multiple rounds of chemo, a stem cell transplant, care at three different children’s hospitals, and countless other procedures. In fact, she missed the entire year of school during treatment. Today, Ashley has been cancer-free since August 2012. The now 10 year-old is back to hula hooping, reading, playing with her sister and doing other activities that she loves.
“I am honored to have been chosen as a National Youth Ambassador for Hyundai Hope On Wheels”, said Ashley Burnette. “My fight with cancer made me more determined to help others. I am excited to travel the country with this great organization and share my story with children who are fighting cancer. My goal is to ensure that kids with cancer know that they are not alone.”
About Kenny Thomas – Hope On Wheels National Youth Ambassador
Kenny Thomas is an energetic nine-year-old, who loves playing basketball and enjoys spending time with his friends. He says his family inspires him to be the best he can be. Shortly after his eighth birthday, Kenny was diagnosed with cancer. His parents noticed the then third-grader had experienced weight loss, persistent coughing and night sweats, which eventually led to an emergency room visit. A chest x-ray revealed the stage three cancerous mass in Kenny’s chest. Kenny spent the following six days in pediatric ICU, where his life was saved. A Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was treated, with an aggressive therapy at UCLA Medical Center. Kenny has been in remission since December 2012 and is back to playing with his friends. He missed the entire third grade, lost his hair, and suffered rounds of treatments. But he feels blessed by his experience and those who took part in his cure.
“Kids should not have to know anything about cancer. It is not a disease that we want to have. Even though I got used to the needle pokes, fighting cancer meant that I had to be strong for myself and those who care about me,” says Kenny Thomas. “I am so excited to be named a National Youth Ambassador for Hyundai Hope On Wheels. I want to give other kids the courage to get through the treatment. It takes courage, and I know every kid has this courage in their soul.”
Hyundai Hope On Wheels 2014 program
2014 marks the 16th year of Hyundai Hope On Wheels and its fight against childhood cancer. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Hope On Wheels is among the leading funders of pediatric cancer research in the U.S. Over $86 million has been funded for research by Hope On Wheels since its inception. The organization is committed to funding innovative research, creating public awareness and stimulating social conversation on the issue.
“We have one mission at Hope On Wheels: to end pediatric cancer,” says 2014 Hope On Wheels Board Chairman, Mickey Pong. “As this year’s board chair, I and the Hyundai dealers of America are proud to welcome Ashley and Kenny to our team, as we fight to end this disease. These kids represent children all across the country and their battles with pediatric cancer. They represent our collective future. We stand beside them and are dedicated to this fight until there is a cure.”
For more information about Hyundai Hope On Wheels, please visit www.HyundaiHopeOnWheels.org.
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