*TISSUE ALERT TISSUE ALERT TISSUE ALERT*
Before you read That Season of Hope, make sure you have a good supply of Kleenex nearby. It's a heartbreaker. Like, it's hard to even write the review of this book.
If you live in the Carolinas (like me), you've probably heard of Hope Stout, a vivacious twelve-year-old redhead who was diagnosed with cancer and passed away at age 12. Every Christmas the local radio stations re-broadcast Keith Larson's phone interviews with Hope and her dad. You can still see some "Pray for Hope" bumper stickers as you drive around town. And the Panthers continue to fundraise for cancer victims and cancer research through their "Keep Pounding" campaign. Hope will not soon be forgotten.
Although the book was only published in October 2013, the Season of Hope refers to the 2003 football season. The entire timeline of events is surprisingly short: Hope is diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer in July and passes away in December. Hope and her family are huge Panthers fans, and at one point they have the opportunity for Hope and her best friend to spend a sunny afternoon at a Panthers game, and to get to meet the players on the sidelines before the game. When Jake Delhomme meets Hope, they instantly click, and he becomes one of her major cheerleaders, and she becomes one of his. Even when she becomes too sick to attend games, she'll watch from home and then call Jake after the game to talk about it.
As if it's not enough that a twelve-year-old passes away, Hope has to grab you by the heart. She and her family maintain a positive outlook right to the end. Their faith keeps them strong. And when Hope is contacted by the Make a Wish Foundation, her wish just blows everyone away: she wishes that people would come together to donate $1 million dollars so that every kid currently on the list could have their wish granted. WOW. Hope could have had anything; she could have had Super Bowl tickets or a vacation, but she chooses to grant other kids' wishes. What follows is 3 months of furious fundraising to try to grant Hope's wish. The entire city of Charlotte came together for this cause.
I won't give any spoilers; you'll have to read the book to see if the wish was granted, and if it was granted in time.
What a beautiful story. What a tearful story. And what a great cause: all of the author proceeds from sales of That Season of Hope are split between the Make a Wish Foundation, the Keep Pounding Foundation and the March Forth With Hope Foundation.