It was a coming together of the ages on Monday, September 23, in the Butterfly Atrium of Children’s Medical Center Dallas. There were nine-year-old Bennett Williams with his mom Kirsa Williams on the front row. A couple of rows back was a bewhiskered Brad Collins. The Williamses and Brad were total strangers.
For more than 42 years Brad had worked at the Freeman family’s dealerships. As for Bennett, he appeared to be a typical elementary schooler with his brown hair and freckles. But looks in this case were deceiving. At the age of 13 months he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), resulting in 39 months of chemotherapy. To the relief of the Williams family, the treatments worked and Bennett emerged healthy and happy in 2014. Why, he even was one of the models at the 27th Annual Children’s Cancer Fund Luncheon in 2015.
Kirsa reported that “50 years ago, the survival rate for ALL was less than 5%; now it is almost 90%.”
Bennett started school at Bradfield and was just like any other kid taking part in school activities. It was while on a vacation that Bennett seemed not quite himself. They initially thought it was a seasonal cold, but the test results brought back the fears of the past. It wasn’t ALL, though. He was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare condition that could mean leukemia again. Once again family, friends and medical experts rallied around Bennett to find the solution. Thanks to research and technology, a successful a bone-marrow match was found in Germany.
And it was that research and technology that brought Brad and Bennett during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month to the Atrium for the Hyundai Hope On Wheels presentation of a $300,000 check to support the work done by second-time recipient Dr. Kathryn Dickerson.
Hyundai Senior Manager of Merchandising Randy Sterling told the guests, including Children’s Medical Center Foundation President Brent Christopher and Dr. Stephen Skapek, that every 36 minutes a child is diagnosed with pediatric cancer. For this reason, Hyundai’s commitment to supporting pediatric cancer research has surpassed $160M since 2011.
Following the presentation, Bennett joined other kid-cancer survivors Leticia Diaz and Shay Johnson in having their hands painted to leave their marks on Kathryn’s white lab coat and the white Hyundai parked out front, while Brad and the other Hyundai representatives looked on.