Volunteer superhero, Julie Hess, standing in front of the Penn State Health Children's Hospital.

Ten years ago this week, Julie’s daughter Lydia was diagnosed with leukemia, a memory that she can vividly recall even today. From the outset, Julie took the initiative to learn more about Four Diamonds, an organization that provided invaluable support to her family during their most challenging time. She instantly became an advocate and volunteer, dedicating herself to promoting our mission daily. “Knowing that families encounter the same heartbreaking news every single week is a reminder that the work is not done,” says Julie. “We will always support Four Diamonds and advocate for families.”

The moment an opportunity to give back presented itself, the team ‘Love For Lydia’ was established. Through the Conquer Run 5K event organized by Four Diamonds, Julie mobilized her friends and family, successfully raising over $55,000 from 2014 to 2019.

When the event concluded, Julie had already taken on a new role. She began advising a Mini-THON® program at her children’s elementary school, where she played a pivotal role in supporting, coordinating, leading and inspiring fundraising efforts over the years. Over the past 7 years, she has assisted the school in raising tens of thousands of dollars through their Mini-THON program.

In her volunteer involvement with the East Hanover Elementary School Mini-THON, which is still ongoing, Julie created a Leaders Club for fourth and fifth graders. They would meet after school for six sessions before the Mini-THON event and taught qualities of leadership while participating in activities to help with the event.  “It's really awesome to see my first group of Leaders, who are now tenth and eleventh graders, involved as leaders of Mini-THON at Lower Dauphin High School!” says Julie.

From 2018 to 2022, Julie partnered with the psycho-social team at Four Diamonds to establish the parent mentor program. Over the years, she has provided personal mentorship to numerous parents of newly diagnosed children, both individually and in group settings. In addition to sending care packages, she regularly met with caregivers at the hospital, either over a comforting cup of coffee or during visits to their inpatient rooms. Julie emphasizes, “I know that the impact of a parent connecting with another parent who has ‘been there’ is powerful in the childhood cancer journey.”

In 2021, Four Diamonds launched a new signature fundraising program, ‘Play For The Kids.’ Unsurprisingly, Julie was among the first supporters to enthusiastically support and help launch the program. Over the past three years, she has raised over $8,000 for this cause.

Volunteer, Julie Hess, celebrating at the end of the New York Marathon with the names of Four Diamonds children fighting cancer written on her arms.As an avid runner, Julie then turned her attention to the Hope Gala benefitting Penn State THON. As part of the Team Hope Gala, Julie raised more than $5,000 to participate in the NYC Marathon. During the race, she carried the names of 26 children battling cancer on her arms, each name serving as inspiration for every mile she ran.

Julie’s passion for sharing the impact that Four Diamonds has had on her family has led to numerous speaking invitations at various events over the years. She has had the honor of speaking at the Hope Gala, Conquer Run, on FOX 43, CBS 21, and at several high school Mini-THON events, among others.

Volunteer, Julie Hess, and her family at the New York Hope Gala.Now, at the age of 12, her daughter Lydia is 7 years cancer-free and thriving. Thankfully, Lydia was too young to remember much of her cancer treatment, but this hasn’t stopped her mom from fighting for those facing childhood cancer every day. It’s hard to know the true dollar impact of such a staunch advocate and passionate influencer, but one can venture her volunteer efforts have raised over $100,000.

Julie shares her experience as an act of love to care deeply for those families facing childhood cancer that come after. Four Diamonds is forever grateful for Julie, her entire network, and the example she sets for us all.

To learn how to get involved with Four Diamonds as a volunteer, click here.