HopeFULL environment at 7th annual Carson Tahoe HopeFest | NevadaAppeal.com

HopeFULL environment at 7th annual Carson Tahoe HopeFest

The University of Nevada Marching Band performs for the crowd at Hopefest Friday.
Brad Coman/Nevada Appeal |

The 7th annual Carson Tahoe Health HopeFest on Friday night featured an enthusiastic crowd, as the festival launched a new competition for the Most HopeFULL team.

Held at the hospital’s Cancer Center, 10 departments from the hospital dressed up in themes to win the title, along with a five foot trophy.

Each group is judged based on creativity of signs and costumes determined by local judges.

But the effort goes beyond the competition and bragging rights for many faculty members participating in the contest.

Marketing Specialist Laurie Burt, decked out in navy blue and an orange tutu, said it’s about showing support for those diagnosed with cancer.

“Our director had breast cancer,” she said. “For the last seven years, we’ve been wanting to do whatever it takes to help. It hits you and affects you.”

Mandy Helskett and her husband, Phil, dressed up as Superman for their department team of Patient Financial Services. All team members dressed up as their favorite Marvel and DC comic book character, to represent the heroism in their support.

“We’ve had a lot of cancer in our family,” Helskett said. “We’re thankful to survive it and we want to see a cure for it.”

On top of that contest, there’s also the Passport of Hope, a public drawing that gives participants a chance to win a trip to Las Vegas, a resort to Lake Tahoe, or a $500 Amazon gift card.

The grand raffle of support is giving locals a chance to win $10,000, or a new Toyota or Ford sponsored by Dick Campagni Auto Group.

All proceeds contributed by the community at HopeFest — including food and drinks — benefit local cancer patients undergoing lifesaving medical treatments, and no-cost lodging at Merriner Cottages by the Carson Tahoe Health Foundation.

With signs lined up across the lawn, marked hopeful sayings dedicated to families and friends battling cancer, this year’s event raised more than $100,000, thanks to raffles, merchandise, food and beverages purchased from event-goers.

Since 2011, the event has distributed more than $439,000 in local patient support, from insurance premiums and co-pays, to mortgage rentals, and transportation.

The benefits also go towards the no-cost lodging at Merriner Cottages by the Carson Tahoe Health Foundation; Ruth Merriner and her family attended the festival, and were thanked by Kitty McKay Customer Experience & Foundation Development for their generous donation to make the cottages possible.

“We give assistance during this tough time for families,” McKay said. “There are desperate times for people and our community understands that. Getting the cancer treatment and diagnosis is the worst experience for them, but the support they receive means everything.”

Performers at this year’s HopeFest included local country singer Molly Seals of American Idol fame and singer-songwriter Tyrone Wells, of Spokane, Wash. His songs have been featured in popular television shows and films, such as Intervention, Grey’s Anatomy, My Sister’s Keeper, One Tree Hill, and The Vampire Diaries. Wells ranked as No. 1 on iTunes Singer Songwriter album and in the Top 10 of iTunes overall.

Winners for the Most HopeFULL contest and Passport to Hope drawing will be announced Monday.