LOS ANGELES – For those who have battled cancer, each tomorrow is, in reality, a dream come true. No one knows that better than the 11 cancer survivors who will ride City of Hope’s float at the 125th Rose Parade on New Year’s Day.
The theme of the float, "Turning Hope and Dreams into Reality," mirrors the broader theme of the parade, "Dreams Come True." The float’s design is inspired by the “wishing trees” that line the entrance to City of Hope’s campus. Throughout the year, patients and their families write wishes on colorful pieces of paper, then hang the paper tags from the wishing trees' branches. The float will feature versions of these trees crafted entirely of flowers and other natural materials.
The patients riding the float offer hope and inspiration to millions of people fighting cancer. Ranging in age from 12 to 67, they include an Episcopal bishop, a beloved local restaurateur, a mother who fought cancer while pregnant, and a nursing student. They also include a young sports media professional who, on the day of the parade, will meet his lifesaving bone marrow donor for the very first time.
Walking alongside the float are some of the doctors, nurses and caregivers who played a role in the patients’ healing, as well as the incoming and outgoing chief executive officers of City of Hope. Current President Robert Stone will be taking the helm – on January 1 – from longtime CEO Michael A. Friedman. Both will mark the transition by accompanying the float along its 5-mile route.
Each rider and each walker serves as a reminder that winning the battle against cancer is a dream that can indeed come true.
Ben Teller: On the morning of the parade, this 28-year-old, three-time survivor of non-Hodgkin lymphoma will meet the person who made his dream possible – his stem cell transplant donor. That donor, who is attending the parade from out of state, will ride the float with Ben. They will be accompanied by Ben’s doctor, Stephen J. Forman, M.D., the Francis and Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation at City of Hope and a pioneer in hematopoietic cell transplantation.
Christine Pechera: Ten years ago, Christine, a native of New York, came to the parade to fulfill what she thought was a dying wish. Diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and being of Filipino ethnicity created an almost impossible circumstance of finding a bone marrow match. Now in remission, this television writer returns to the parade a healthy participant.
Charlie Habib: The parade has special meaning for this 12-year-old survivor of an extremely rare cancer known as dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans, a tumor of the skin that only affects one person per 1 million a year. Her parents met in 1996 when they worked together on the Cal Poly float, and she's felt a part of the parade all her life. This year, that feeling becomes just as real as her defeat of her disease.
Julie Campoy: This Pasadena native’s dream as a teenager was to be a Rose Princess. That didn't happen, but as a breast cancer survivor, the owner of the beloved Julienne's restaurant in San Marino now considers herself a princess of hope.
Stephanie Hosford: Six years ago, Stephanie received her breast cancer diagnosis at virtually the same time she learned she was pregnant with her long-awaited second child. The diagnosis also came as she and her husband were adopting a baby from China. At the time, she drew her dream on a piece of paper: five stick figures representing her family. Now Stephanie is cancer free, and the family of five will celebrate the new year at the Rose Parade.
Bishop John Bruno: The 67-year-old bishop heads the six-county Los Angeles Episcopal diocese and overcame leukemia in 2012. Charismatic and larger-than-life, Bishop Bruno is a father of three and grandfather of seven. A professional football player and policeman before becoming a priest, he now oversees 147 parishes, 44 schools and 20 institutions.
Hannah Komai: For Hannah to pursue her dream of becoming a pediatric oncology nurse, she first had to beat osteosarcoma, a cancer of the bone. She did so, and after months of chemotherapy, her femur, tibia and fibula were replaced with titanium steel. Now 23 and in remission, she is studying nursing at Mount St. Mary’s.
Christina Russo: Diagnosed at 27 with the pediatric cancer rabdomiosarcoma, Christina was given six months to live by doctors at another institution. Rather than give up, she came to City of Hope. She's now been cancer-free for 10 years, and in that time has become a wife and a mother of twins. Her family in Florida is having a “huge” viewing party to see her travel down Colorado Boulevard.
Kommah McDowell: Given a diagnosis of late-stage inflammatory breast cancer, which carries a 5 percent chance of surviving two years, Kommah is now an eight-year cancer survivor and mom to a 4-year-old son.
John Cloer: John was diagnosed with leukemia before his third birthday. Today, he's cancer free. John's sister is a nurse in the bone marrow transplant unit at City of Hope, and having their family intact is a dream come true for the Cloers.
Even those not treated at City of Hope feel a connection to the float. Micala Goerke, a breast cancer survivor, and her family are flying from Colorado to help decorate during the frenzied rush leading up to the parade. The family has watched the Rose Parade on TV for 20 years and is now fulfilling their wish of seeing it in person. Anyone can include a wish on City of Hope’s wishing trees and donated wishes will travel on the float New Year’s Day.
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