By Mark Haas

DENVER (CBS4)– Solei Unternahrer is having breakfast with her mom and friend at the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Denver, and it is almost the 11-year-old’s turn to meet Santa.

hope kids colorado 10pkg frame 486 HopeKids Helps Support Young Cancer Patients, Families

(credit: CBS)

“LEGOS,” Solie says when asked what she will request from Santa. “Just LEGOS.”

solei with hair HopeKids Helps Support Young Cancer Patients, Families

(credit: Jackie Unternahrer)

Solei is one of about 20 HopeKids and their families having a private breakfast with Santa and Mrs. Clause.

christmas party HopeKids Helps Support Young Cancer Patients, Families

(credit: HopeKids Colorado)

HopeKids is a non-profit organization that according to its mission statement provides “ongoing events, activities and a powerful, unique support community for families who have a child with cancer or some other life-threatening medical condition.”

solei and doctor HopeKids Helps Support Young Cancer Patients, Families

(credit: Jackie Unternahrer)

“HopeKids is fun!” says Solei. “Like, really fun.”

hope kids colorado 10pkg frame 576 HopeKids Helps Support Young Cancer Patients, Families

Solei Unternahrer (credit: CBS)

However, her last 12 months, have not been so fun. A year ago, pain in Solei’s leg was diagnosed as osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of cancer, and Solei’s right femur had to be removed.

solei and mom pre cancer2 HopeKids Helps Support Young Cancer Patients, Families

Jackie and Solei Unternahrer (credit: Jackie Unternahrer)

“I was really scared,” Solei says. “I held on to my mom and I cried a lot.”

SHARE YOUR STORY: Share A Together 4 Colorado Story Idea With CBS4

“I was devastated,” says Jackie Unternahrer, who adopted Solei from Guatemala when she was two-months old.

solei smile HopeKids Helps Support Young Cancer Patients, Families

(credit: Jackie Unternahrer)

“I am sure any parent feels this way, but you feel so responsible for their lives, their happiness and their well-being,” says Unternahrer. “And to be told my child has cancer, and an aggressive form of cancer, it was terrifying.”

hope kids colorado 10pkg frame 2590 HopeKids Helps Support Young Cancer Patients, Families

(credit: CBS)

Since Solei’s diagnosis in December 2016, mom and daughter spent nine months living at either Children’s Hospital Colorado or the Ronald McDonald House as Solei underwent 18 rounds of chemo.

solie after surgery HopeKids Helps Support Young Cancer Patients, Families

(credit: Jackie Unternahrer)

Jackie says the HopeKids Colorado events were one of the few bright spots.

“Solei and I would look on the calendar of events and sign up for them and it would give us something to look forward to,” Jackie says. “Because when you are in the hospital there is not a whole lot to look forward to.”

In two years, the HopeKids Colorado chapter has hosted a couple hundred of free events for about 400 registered families.

kids at sporting event HopeKids Helps Support Young Cancer Patients, Families

(credit: HopeKids Colorado)

Howie Hutchinson is the executive director and says the outings are meant to provide normalcy for the families, and create a very supportive sense of community.

“They see other families and they have a special connection that I can’t put into words,” Hutchinson says. “But they come into a room and they may have never met but they see each other and know that they are going through something similar and that is powerful.”

baseball game HopeKids Helps Support Young Cancer Patients, Families

(credit: HopeKids Colorado)

For Dave Kling, the HopeKids community became a second family for him while his son Trevor was battling brain cancer.

trevor and dad HopeKids Helps Support Young Cancer Patients, Families

(credit: Dave Kling)

“The smile is worth more than any money in the world,” Kling says about Trevor at HopeKids events. “For Trevor to get to go out and have fun and not worry that he has brain cancer and that he has to go into chemo… everything just goes away.”

trevor outlaws game HopeKids Helps Support Young Cancer Patients, Families

(credit: Dave Kling)

In October, Trevor passed away. He was 14 years old.

Dave though, still attends HopeKids events as a volunteer.

hope kids colorado 10pkg frame 3812 HopeKids Helps Support Young Cancer Patients, Families

(credit: CBS)

trevor bowling event2 HopeKids Helps Support Young Cancer Patients, Families

(credit: Dave Kling)

“Something that I taught Trevor is it is better to give than receive,” Kling says. “And all through his cancer he would get all these gift cards for doing radiation and he gave them all back to give to other kids. I taught him that, and now that he has passed away I can’t stop doing the same.”

rockies game HopeKids Helps Support Young Cancer Patients, Families

(credit: HopeKids Colorado)

As for Solei, her latest scans were clear and she was just cleared to start walking again on what her mom calls her “bionic leg.”

star wars HopeKids Helps Support Young Cancer Patients, Families

(credit: HopeKids Colorado)

“She’ll never be able to run and jump and play like she used to and there is a sadness with that,” Jackie says. “But to be able to see the kindness of people and see that yes this world does care about kids like Solei – that has been a miracle.”

LINK: HopeKids Colorado

Mark Haas is a sports anchor/reporter for CBS4. Read his bio or follow him on Twitter @markhaastv or on Facebook.

Comments
  1. LeeAnn Naeve says:

    @markhaastv, we just wanted to say thank you for this piece. Because of it we made a donation at the end of the year to Hopekids. We were totally surprised by the personal response from Howie Hutchinson. We not only recieved a hand written thank you note, but a personal phone call from Howie thanking us. It seems like such a small thing, but it warms our hearts that someone believes so much in the good they are doing. Thank you Mark, CBS 4 Denver, and Howie Hutchinson. #Hopekids

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More From CBS Denver

Together 4 Colorado
NEWS TEAM
Future Leaders

Watch & Listen LIVE