9-Year-Old Cancer Survivor Named Hope On Wheels Spokes-Kid; Francesca Arnaudo and Her Family Share Their Inspiring Message of Hope

Mar 29, 2006, 00:00 ET from Hyundai Hope On Wheels

    ORANGE, Calif., March 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Francesca Arnaudo, a vivacious
 9-year-old from Northern California and two-time cancer survivor, was named
 the 2006 Hyundai Hope On Wheels Spokes-kid, during a presentation today at
 Children's Hospital of Orange County.  As the first national ambassador of the
 Hope On Wheels program, an initiative created by Hyundai dealers and Hyundai
 Motor America to support pediatric cancer research, Francesca and her family
 will travel to Hope On Wheels events sharing their personal story and joining
 with other children and families to reach for the day when all children can be
 guaranteed a cure from cancer.
      (Photo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20060329/DAW002 )
     Francesca was selected as the Hope On Wheels Spokes-kid after a national
 search to find a courageous and spirited child affected by pediatric cancer
 who could serve as inspiration to others in their own fight against this
     "Hyundai dealers are proud to introduce Francesca as this year's Hyundai
 Hope On Wheels Spokes-kid," said Scott Fink, owner of Hyundai of New Port
 Richey in Florida and president of the national Hyundai Dealer Association.
 "Since 1998, Hyundai has been committed to finding a cure for childhood
 cancer, with donations to the cause now totaling over $7 million.  Francesca
 is proof that funding pediatric cancer research is saving young lives."
     Hyundai Hope On Wheels is a national program created by Hyundai dealers to
 spread awareness and funding for pediatric cancer research by gathering
 childhood cancer patients' handprints on a Hyundai Tucson SUV that travels to
 local children's hospitals, community events and auto shows.  Francesca's
 colorful handprint is one of more than 300 that children of all ages have
 added to the vehicle as it makes its way across the country.
     Like many kids diagnosed with cancer, Francesca was a healthy and active
 little girl before anyone knew that something was wrong.  On the day that her
 family will never forget, May 8, 2003, 7-year-old Francesca was playing T-ball
 when she suddenly fell and slightly injured herself.  After taking her to the
 doctor they noticed unusual swelling in her right arm, which turned out to be
 a tumor in her shoulder.  Francesca was then referred to UC Davis Cancer
 Center in Sacramento, where she was diagnosed with undifferentiated sarcoma
 (bone cancer), a form of cancer that affects three children in a million under
 the age of 14.  Five months of chemotherapy, surgeries and then more
 chemotherapy followed, and Francesca's team of doctors and nurses successfully
 removed the disease and saved her arm, which some doctors did not believe
 would be possible.
     Then in December 2004, Francesca and her family were devastated to learn
 that a second, more lethal type of cancer had been found, secondary acute
 myeloid leukemia.  With a cure rate of 10 percent or less in most patients, to
 fight this disease Francesca quickly needed a bone marrow transplant -- and
 none of her family members proved to be a donor match.  Luckily, Francesca's
 doctors at UC Davis found a match through a national search of donated
 umbilical cord tissue, and she received the transplant in March 2005.
     On March 22, 2006, Francesca celebrated her one-year anniversary in
     "As a parent, there's simply no way to describe how terrified and
 uncertain we all were while this was happening," said Mary Arnaudo,
 Francesca's mother.  "It was a real test for our entire family, but we knew we
 needed to be strong for Francesca.  Like so many others who are fighting
 childhood cancer, our love for Francesca was all the reason we needed to be
 resilient and fight every day to get her well."
     Francesca's entire family supported her throughout her treatment.  Mary
 quit her job to homeschool Francesca and focus on Francesca's health, driving
 the 75 miles each way to her appointments in Sacramento.  Together, Mary and
 Francesca designed car magnets to pass out to those in their community who
 support the cause.  Her father, John, and brother, Dino, both shaved their
 heads to support Francesca -- and kept them shaved until Francesca's hair
 began to grow back.
     Though her treatment prevented her from attending school, Francesca still
 kept up her friendships, and helped teach her classmates about her disease --
 and the true meaning of determination.
     "Francesca truly is a miracle child," said Dr. Douglas Taylor, director of
 the UC Davis pediatric stem cell transplant program.  "We will be able to help
 so many more children just like her because of everything we learned from
 treating Francesca."
     Through it all, Francesca demonstrated a level of courage and
 determination not found in most children her age.  She continues to help raise
 awareness by passing out gold ribbons in support of pediatric cancer at her
 and Dino's schools, making speeches in and around her community about the
 effects of childhood cancer, and by participating in cancer awareness events
 and fund-raisers.
     "She's truly one of the bravest and most selfless, self-aware little girls
 I have ever met," added Dr. Taylor.
     Spokes-kid Francesca was introduced today at the 2006 Hyundai Hope On
 Wheels tour kick-off at Children's Hospital of Orange County by Hyundai
 dealers from across the country who traveled to Southern California for this
 special event.  As the 2006 Hope On Wheels Spokes-kid, Francesca and her
 family will also travel to New York and other cities to meet families like
 their own who are fighting cancer.
     "It's so important for kids and their families to know they aren't alone
 in their battle against cancer," Francesca said.  "As the Hyundai Hope On
 Wheels Spokes-kid, I want to do everything I can to tell people how important
 it is to fund pediatric cancer research so that more kids like me can become
     Hyundai's support of childhood cancer research began in 1998 through the
 effort of Boston-area Hyundai dealers and their donations benefiting The Jimmy
 Fund at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.  Additional support then followed to
 other children's hospitals throughout America through the Hyundai Hope On
 Wheels tour and an alliance with CureSearch National Childhood Cancer
 Foundation, Hyundai's national partner in the fight against cancer.
     About Hyundai Motor America
     Hyundai Motor America, based in Fountain Valley, Calif., is a subsidiary
 of Hyundai Motor Company of Korea.  Hyundai cars and sport utility vehicles
 are distributed in the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and
 serviced through more than 700 dealerships nationwide.  For more information
 about Hyundai's Hope On Wheels program, or to contribute to the cause, please
 visit http://www.hyundaihopeonwheels.com .

SOURCE Hyundai Hope On Wheels