Chris Hope Foundation: Leading With “Yes” for Families in Need

This article originally appeared in StoryBoard Memphis.

Memphis’ own Chris Hope Foundation began as so many stories in this city do – with everyday people responding to someone in need.

In 2015, Chris Hope, the organization’s Founder and Chief Inspiration Officer, crossed paths with a woman from Louisiana who had come to Memphis for her child to receive cancer treatment. Her travels meant that she had to take a large amount of time off work, and she feared she was unable to make the next mortgage payment on the family home. In response, Chris and his friends pooled money to pay for the house note.

It quickly occurred to Hope, a longtime UPS driver, that while Memphis’ world class pediatric hospitals innovate and frequently work clinical miracles on behalf of sick children, families suffer significant financial consequences from a diagnosis that are frequently overlooked. Treatment and related expenses are typically covered, but cell phone bills, car repairs and gas, and lodging for multiple family members traveling extended distances are usually not. In the longer term, some pediatric patients have even lost college scholarships.

Thanks to the support and generosity of our volunteers, individual and corporate sponsors, and fundraising efforts in Memphis and beyond, the Foundation can lead with “yes” in response to a variety of challenges related to diagnoses of childhood illness. This ranges from making a child’s birthday by delivering their dream gift, to making a college education more attainable through scholarships, easing the burden of medical bills, and covering other expenses related to a cancer diagnosis.

Chris Hope Foundation partners with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Memphis, and Children’s of Alabama – among other ever-growing partnerships. In fact, the organization has a lifetime goal of raising $1 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and it is 72% of the way there.

Several core initiatives power the Foundation’s work:

  • Runs to raise awareness and funds. Both the Chris Hope Foundation’s own events, as well as CHF Cares participants in other local races, have become significant draws for Memphians looking for a way to test their fitness goals, connect with neighbors, and raise money for a great cause.

The CHF Race for HOPE and Lylah Grey’s Ray of HOPE 5K are both held in the fall each year. The latter is held in memory of Lylah Grey McGaughy, a patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital who passed away from Stage 4 High Risk Neuroblastoma in September 2015. In the annual Race for HOPE, participants can run in person through Downtown Memphis or at a distance in Virtual 5K and 10K settings.

  • The CHF Family House, which opened in 2020, provides a fully furnished and comfortable place to stay for families that don’t qualify for hospital-based housing and can’t afford a hotel. Renovating and decorating the house, located in a comfortable and neighborly part of the city, was a work of love by volunteers and sponsors. Plans exist to open a second CHF Family House in the near future.
  • The Foundation has helped parents pay their cell phone bills to ensure they were able to keep in contact with other family members at home while traveling to Memphis for appointments.
  • Many Kroger and UberEats gift cards have been provided to families who needed a little extra help with meals and groceries amid other heightened expenses – a particularly important benefit during these times of inflation!
  • CHF has reached teens and families who beat cancer and come out of their treatment programs only to see scholarships gone, and the Giving Hope Scholarship was established to help them pursue their educational endeavors.
  • The Happy Hearts program was born out of our desire to bring final wishes to pediatric patients in hospice or end-of-life care. Through Happy Hearts, the Foundation grants a wide array of requests, which may range from a custom shirt to a family gathering or outing. In partnership with Le Bonheur, it also gives a mini-shopping spree to one patient a month in its “Kid of the Month” initiative.

This list isn’t extensive or exhaustive, representing only the biggest programs the Foundation offers. As its work has grown, so has its recognition. In 2021, CHF was voted the winner of the Local Non Profit Organization category of the Memphis Most Awards.

How to get involved and stay connected with Chris Hope Foundation

The work of the Chris Hope Foundation is made up of ordinary miracles. Every smile, every handheld, every burden lifted and every wish granted is an act of love from people just like you.