Model Samantha Hoopes with City of Hope patient Claudia Kazlauskas
Samantha Hoopes may be best known for her appearances in Carl’s Jr. commercials or gracing the pages of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, but the Los Angeles-based model was recently thrilled to make a visit to City of Hope, where she discovered “a new family.”
“I’ve always really wanted to give back to the community, and I never really knew how to do it,” Hoopes explained. “I had given City of Hope a shoutout on Instagram, and I started to research the organization a little bit more.”
She decided she needed to check out the campus in person, so she came to City of Hope last week, touring the facility and visiting with patients.
“I didn’t know how it was going to be,” she said. “People are fighting for their lives. It’s not a joke. It’s not fake. It’s a real-life situation.”
As it turns out, “It was amazing. I learned so much,” she said of her experience. “Everyone was so nice. City of Hope does so much with the patients and their families. It was really enjoyable for me to go there and be able to interact with different patients on a personal level.”
She added: “It’s kind of incredible to me how people can get treatments that are ‘fresh off the press,’ so to speak. New medications are discovered right there on campus. I think that’s super important, to get patients exactly what they need when they need it. Everything is right there. Everything is taken care of.”
Hoopes had her first experience with cancer when she was 7 years old and a friend her same age died of leukemia.
“I didn’t really understand it when I was a child. I just knew it was very devastating,” she recalled. As an adult, she has had family members struggle with the disease, including a cousin who died of lung cancer.
“He died pretty fast. He didn’t even really tell us that he was sick,” she said. “Everyone handles the disease differently. Some people don’t want anyone to know because they don’t want people to feel bad for them.
“Someone who’s sick doesn’t want to be a burden to people. But to people in their family, it’s not a burden. Everyone just wants to help. And when you’re not given that opportunity, it makes it a little bit harder, I think,” she said.
“It’s one of those diseases that when it happens, it’s nice to have an organization like City of Hope to turn to because there are so many thoughts that go through your head – there are so many different emotions, and you’re confused,” she continued. “City of Hope is a family you can rely on. Everyone’s really there for you. That’s why I really love coming and visiting. I hope to do more.”
Hoopes said she wants to make visits to City of Hope “a regular thing” and that she would love “to bring more SI girls with me. I would love to spread the word about this amazing organization. It has a very positive vibe.”
One patient she met had lost all of her hair from treatment, but she asked if she could take off her headscarf to take a photo with Hoopes. “Just to see her embracing this whole journey and allowing me in, it was kind of amazing,” she said.
Being a model, “people look up to you and think you have a perfect life, but every person struggles with something,” Hoopes said. “For me, modeling’s great, but I have no sense of gratification doing it. It pays my bills. Being a model you’re so objectified. The experience [at City of Hope] really has changed my life. I can’t even put into words how I felt when I left. I called my mom, my dad, my sister. I told them I met these amazing people at this amazing organization. If I can have one-on-one contact and make a difference in someone’s personal life, it actually helps me out in my personal life.
“The patients that I met — I can’t wait to go back and see them again, and I hope that they want me to come back,” she said.