Vision Zero: Hyundai Hope on Wheels Targets Ending Childhood Cancer

With a clear vision, leadership and the help of Hyundai Dealers, the company is funding research to improve the lives of childhood cancer patients.

Hyundai Hope On Wheels 2022-2024 National Youth Ambassador Oliver Foster. Photo Hyundai
Hyundai Hope On Wheels 2022-2024 National Youth Ambassador Oliver Foster. Photo: Hyundai

25 Years, $225 Million in Donations, and Huge Strides Made. 

“I want consumers to feel inspired to maybe spread the word,” said John Guastaferro, executive director of Hyundai Hope on Wheels. “Or even just feel better driving down the road knowing that they are part of our movement.”

That’s a big ask for a car company executive. But in this case, it’s not hard to feel better about driving a Hyundai or to feel inspired. The company just gave away $25 million to help fight for an end to childhood cancer.

The Hyundai Hope on Wheels Foundation has been supporting this effort since 1998 through donations to researchers and medical institutions and raising awareness. To celebrate the foundation’s 25th year, Hope on Wheels gave away its biggest donation yet of $25 million. With a bold and heartfelt vision, they want to make an even bigger difference and save lives.

“My vision is to move us closer to a cure to end childhood cancer as we know it,” John told us.

The Hope on Wheels Foundation has donated $225 million over the years, but according to John, they had humble beginnings. It started out with just a handful of Hyundai dealerships donating to a children’s hospital in 1998. Today, it has grown to over 820 Hyundai dealerships, making them one of the top national donors to the cause. For every Hyundai vehicle sold, a portion of the sale goes toward funding Hope on Wheels.

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Hospitals That Benefit From Hope On Wheels Span The Country

Hospitals that benefit from Hope on Wheels span the country.

Hope on Wheels Gave Away $25 Million to Research and Medical Institutions – This Year Alone

The foundation has a heavy focus on funding cancer research. Hope on Wheels also has its own medical advisory team that assists in deciphering the competitive grant process. With this year’s massive donation, Hyundai has funded over 1,300 research studies at 175 medical institutions.

“We’re giving researchers the opportunity to test hypotheses,” John explained. “Maybe it’s discovering something new, or discovering a less invasive way to do something we’ve already been doing.”

Hope on Wheels also gives away Impact grants to medical instutitions, so hospitals can provide the best support to their child cancer patients.

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Hyundai Hope On Wheels 2022-2024 National Youth Ambassador Oliver Foster. Photo Hyundai

Hyundai Hope On Wheels 2022-2024 National Youth Ambassador Oliver Foster. Photo: Hyundai

Children’s Handprints Symbolize the Core of All the Work They Do

An integral part of this grant process is the Handprint Ceremony. When the Hope on Wheels team visits hospitals to meet with child cancer patients and award grants, they bring with them a white vehicle. They paint the children’s hands, who then leave their handprints on the car.

“My first one, I was really emotional,” John said, describing the Handprint Ceremony. “Holding an IV pole in one hand, they come down from the cancer wing, and they put their handprint on it. But they’re smiling, and they’re happy.”

John was moved by the vibrance and strength of the children at the Handprint Ceremony. It led him to see the deeper message they all have to share.

“These handprints signify their strength, their bravery, but it also signifies all the hands that it takes to make a difference,” John said.

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Painted Hands Are A Core Way That Hope On Wheels Gets The Message Across To Consumers And Patients

Painted hands are a core way that Hope on Wheels gets the message across to consumers and patients. Photo: Hyundai

John was Inspired by Hyundai’s Dedication to Their Customers and the Cause

With 20 years of prior experience in the non-profit sector, John Guastaferro joined Hyundai Hope on Wheels and the Genesis Inspiration Foundation as Executive Director in July of 2022. He previously worked with Hyundai’s Corporate Social Responsibility team and admired the company’s efforts to not only sell a product but make a difference.

“When I discovered Hyundai as a global vision of progress for humanity, that was already really important to me and a lot of my values,” John said.

But first and foremost, John is a parent of two daughters. He wants to make a difference in the world and give other families the hope and security to keep pushing forward.

“I can’t even imagine what a parent feels when their child is diagnosed with cancer,” John said. “It’s pretty rare when you’re in a position where you have clarity, and this is where I’m supposed to be.”

Hyundai Hope On Wheels Celebrates 25 Years

Hyundai Hope on Wheels celebrates 25 years. Photo: Hyundai

John Wants to See the Day When Childhood Cancer is Completely Eradicated

In the 1970s, the likelihood of a child surviving cancer five years or more was only 57%. Now, that number is all the way up to 85%.

“The vision is to get to 100%,” John said.

John hopes to make even larger donations in the coming years and save the lives of children whose brutal fight has inspired him so much.

“I think we live in a day where it’s ok to be bold and aspirational,” John said. “It may take a long time, but we won’t stop until we get it.”

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Eden is a freelance writer and editor. She is based in Austin, Texas where she is pursuing a bachelor's... More about Eden Shamy