I can’t believe it’s been three weeks since I returned to my home in Charlotte, NC after flying to the snowy North Country of Albany, NY to attend the Hope & Love Ball. I got sick with the flu, so this blog is late, but I feel compelled to share with you some of the special moments of that magical night.
The highlight of my evening was when my cousin, Lori, introduced me to Ruth Shopmeyer. For those of you who don’t know, Mrs. Shopmeyer is the angel who introduced Hannah’s Hope to Doris Buffett. About a year before Ruth, who is now 86, ever heard of Hannah’s Hope, she saw Ms. Buffett on the CBS Morning Show discussing her Sunshine Ladies Foundation. When Ruth heard about Hannah via one of the local Albany news reports, she remembered seeing Doris on the Morning Show but could not remember her last name. She actually called CBS and asked them who was on their show a year ago discussing a charitable foundation. Then with the help of her daughter, Ruth tracked down the Sunshine Ladies contact information.
Ruth wrote to Doris and mentioned that she understood how hard it was to lose one’s husband. She also wrote about Hannah’s Hope and asked that the Sunshine Ladies consider supporting our cause. Something in Ruth’s letter touched Doris’ heart, and her assistant reached out to Lori.
Just in case you are a new HHF supporter, last year, the Sunshine Ladies agreed to provide a matching grant of $500,000 to Hannah’s Hope if we raised $500,000 in six months. Thanks to our incredible supporters, we raised well over that amount!
What I told Ruth on Saturday night was that what she did not only helped HHF financially, she showed us that miracles are possible. Ever since Lori and Matt decided that GAN was NOT going to be a death sentence, they have been in the business of creating miracles.
It is miraculous that a few months after learning of Hannah’s diagnosis, Lori and Matt created a 501C3 and held the first international symposium on GAN at Boston Children’s Hospital with researchers from around the globe.
It is miraculous that our lead researcher, Dr. Steven Gray of the UNC Chapel Hill Gene Therapy center has already found a treatment, and Hannah has already participated in the pre-trials baseline testing.
It is miraculous that we, a tiny family and friends run organization with no paid staff, won the major Pepsi Refresh grant competition, not once, but TWICE last year. We beat organizations much larger than us. Cystic Fibrosis has over 100,000 Facebook Fans. We have about 4100 FB fans, yet we beat them. We beat them because every one of our fans voted every possible way every day and asked every one of their friends to vote.
Those of us who passionately support HHF now not only believe in miracles, we expect them. And that all started because Ruth Shopmeyer, a woman with no ties to our family or Hannah’s Hope other than the news story she heard, reached out and launched HHF into the business of creating miracles.
I am also grateful that I heard Dr. Gray speak on Saturday night. As Lori thanked Dr. Gray, she mentioned that part of why he has humanized what could be a clinical experience, is that he has a daughter the same age as Hannah. I sobbed when I heard him speak because his genuine humility shone through in his words and very presence. His passion and commitment to our cause was palpable. I sobbed because I was overwhelmed with gratitude that we were fortunate enough to find this profoundly intelligent and dedicated researcher who is committed to making GAN a thing of the past. When he said, “We only have one shot to get this right,” I was overwhelmed with the sense that he was a light leading the way.
I know I speak for my entire family when I say, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Each and every one of you who supports Hannah’s Hope is in the business of creating miracles.