CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) – Hope Stout was a 12-year-old girl diagnosed with a raging bone cancer in 2003. She made a Wish that would change lives in Charlotte forever.
When Make-A-Wish came to Hope and asked her what she wanted, she said her wish was to raise enough money to grant the wishes of the other 155 kids on the Make-A-Wish list. It would cost a million dollars.
"There are these kids, and just to see their smiles and to know I made a difference in their lives is an amazing feeling," Hope said in a radio interview with WBT's Keith Larson. Their conversation was December 19th, 2003.
He later said the conversation grabbed him in the heart.
"She is so clear that the goal and mission is she wants to grant these other wishes for these kids," he said.
In part because of that conversation, money started pouring in.
WBTV's Molly Grantham was a new reporter in Charlotte at the time. She started doing stories every day, updating the totals.
Even the Panthers were affected. Panthers offensive lineman Kevin Donnalley had met Hope before a game that season. He, too, was grabbed in the heart. He stayed in touch, often asking what he could do to help her pain.
"She says, you know, 'I have a really great family'," he told us in a story from 2003. "'But if you and some of your teammates could go over to CMC, there's a lot of kids over there who don't have family. Just go over there and visit them. Instead of coming over here to visit me.' And your jaw just drops."
Hope lost her battle four short weeks after making her Wish.
But by that time her story and Wish had spread. At a big "Celebration of Hope" black tie fundraiser, it was announced the city had done it. We'd done it! Charlotte had come together and raised over a million dollars! We'd granted Hope's Wish of granting the other 155!
One of the most amazing parts of the story is that now, ten years later, Hope's Spirit Keeps Rockin' On. There have been many fundraising galas since, benefiting March Forth with Hope Foundation, a non-profit established by Stuart and Shelby in 2004, in honor of their daughter. They raise money to help other critically-ill kids and their families. The Stouts say they've given out over 100 grants and tens of thousands of dollars since they started. (Go to www.MarchForthWithHope.com for more.)
This past October, there was also a special book launch at Bank of America Stadium. Keith Larson unveiled what took him ten years to write: the true love story between Hope.. the Panthers... the City... and how they all became one beautiful blur.
Every cent of author proceeds goes BACK to three charities. Which means anyone who buys a copy of "That Season of Hope" is helping Make-a-Wish, March Forth with Hope and The Panthers "Keep Pounding" Fund.
The book is in local bookstores and online. Link here: http://tinyurl.com/ldp5zqo