"What started out as a simple dream has blossomed into a beautiful reality. In 2010, we envisioned a way of providing direct support to children and families who have been affected by pediatric cancer in our local community. Words cannot begin to elaborate on the amount of respect, gratitude, and sincere appreciation we have for each and every one of you. As we come together, united in our mission, we hope for nothing more than to all hold hands, to walk together, and to find a cure for childhood cancer."
Runway to Hope was founded in 2010 by Mark and Josie NeJame with a simple vision - to bring new and innovative programs to the oncology programs of the three local children's hospitals and keep funding in Central Florida. Since then, Runway to Hope has met with and encouraged all three of the hospitals to work together, something that was not otherwise being done. Runway to Hope's investment has created a more efficient use of funds and prevention of duplicating services and care offered locally. As a result of these efforts, the pediatric oncologists and hospital systems are now working together for the common cause of helping pediatric cancer warriors and their families.
During this time, Runway to Hope has grown to become the largest local charity gala in Central Florida, pledging $4.3 million to expand oncology care at the three local children's hospitals in Central Florida: Advent Health for Children, Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Nemours Children's Hospital.
Runway to Hope's signature gala event, the annual Spring Soiree hosts over 150 children, between the ages of 2-18, who have battled or are currently battling pediatric cancer. On this night, they have the chance to walk down the runway hand-in-hand with a local or national celebrity escort. Watching all of the beautiful models as they walk on stage, embracing their inner style, with a smile on their face is truly an uplifting and inspirational moment that takes your breath away. The support from the community continues to be truly remarkable and allows Runway to Hope to make a notable difference in the lives of families impacted by pediatric cancer. No child or family should ever feel alone throughout this journey.
Runway to Hope strives to cultivate a community of hope for our families battling and assist them with basic necessities so they can focus on saving their child's life. Thus, the Family Assistance Program was created, which provides aid to the courageous families of children battling cancer that are desperately in need. Often, one parent has to quit work to care for the child and as a result, their other children's needs are deferred with mounting expenses and loss of income dramatically draining their finances. The Family Assistance Program provides immediate help ranging from automobile assistance, mortgage/rent payments, utilities, emergency transportation and unfortunately, funeral/end of life expenses.
Since 2014, the program has assisted over 500 families in Central Florida, granting over $750,000. The Family Assistance Program was started in 2014 when we learned that one of the little girls who had walked in our Spring Soiree did not have a bed to sleep and heal in at home. After helping this family with a bed, it was clear that needs to families battling pediatric cancer are endless.