If you’ve been inside a Hyundai dealership in the last 15 years, chances are good you’ve seen the primary-colored handprints of Hyundai Hope on Wheels, a national independent non-profit organization created to combat pediatric cancer. Since Hyundai Motor America and its dealerships teamed up for charity in 1998, Hope on Wheels has funded over $100 million dollars in pediatric cancer research. Yet this massive charitable venture, which now encompasses more than 800 dealerships nationwide, traces its roots to one man and a radio promotion.
In 1997, as part of an agreement to keep him from retiring, Massachusetts auto dealer Tom O’Brien was given a Hyundai dealership. O’Brien, whose mother died of cancer when he was 22, had been partnering with the Jimmy Fund and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston for years as a Nissan dealer, and decided that joining the fight against pediatric cancer would be a good way for his new Hyundai dealership to support the community.
O’Brien worked tirelessly to persuade other regional Hyundai dealers to put aside a portion of their marketing funds for a simple promotion: every time a Red Sox pitcher recorded a strikeout, the dealerships would collectively donate $50 to strike out pediatric cancer. This baseball-themed promotion quickly changed to involve dealers donating $3 for every new Hyundai sold.
The same uncompromising spirit that helped O’Brien persuade his peers to join him in donating to the Jimmy Fund saw him become the chairman of the national Hyundai dealers group, where he was able to turn what started out as a New England regional promotion into a national non-profit, Hope on Wheels. Only 4% of all federal cancer research goes toward pediatric cancer, and because of the initiative of one person whose life was touched by cancer, every new Hyundai sale in the United States will benefit pediatric cancer research.
The hands in our dealership each tell their own story; as Hope on Wheels says, “There is nothing more personal than a handprint.” We’re proud to play a small part in building a world in which no child has to hear the words, “you have cancer.”