Leaves of Hope to Heroes of Hope: A Family Tradition


Stories of cancer survivorship can be seen every year at the Leaves of Hope Run/Walk and National Cancer Survivors Day Celebration.  Generations of families come out to Lutheran Medical Center’s beautiful Wheat Ridge campus the first Sunday in June to support survivors in our community, and remember those who battled courageously. For Donna Ross and her daughter Jen, the first Sunday in June is a special time to remember the courage, strength and beauty of their mother and grandmother, Judy Kraft.

Judy, Jennifer and Donna had the opportunity to attend every Leaves of Hope race together since 2007. “Leaves of Hope was my mom’s favorite event of the year,” Donna remembered, sharing their excitement of attending the race together, “as soon as registration was available we would get our tickets, with Mom excited to see if she got one of the first bib numbers”. (As you can see by the picture below, Judy made sure to register early to get the best bib number possible, 0002 to be exact). 

Judy and her dog Patches enjoy the 2012 Leaves of Hope race. 

Judy and her dog Patches enjoy the 2012 Leaves of Hope race. 

 Judy was unexpectedly diagnosed with lung cancer after a trip to Lutheran Medical Center’s emergency department late one evening. Her strength and resiliency helped her fight lung cancer three times , each year never missing a chance to be present at the Leaves of Hope race. “It was important for my mom to come and meet other survivors, in hopes that she could maybe help them through their journey and feel supported.” Each year Judy and Donna attended the Leaves of Hope race together. While Judy wasn’t always able to walk a full mile, every step was a small victory. Judy enjoyed having a special meal with other survivors, making new friends and feeling connected with the community. The Health and Safety Fair helped to connect Judy with community resources, “my mom especially appreciated the chair massages offered by Bridges Integrative Health and Wellness” Donna remembered fondly. Each race renewed her spirit and courage to continue battling cancer.   

“My mom was so focused on living life she never let her diagnosis slow her down. She found courage and strength through the support of our community and hospital”. Each year hundreds of cancer survivors at all stages of treatment and diagnoses along with their families, friends and nearly 1,000 runners, volunteers and vendors join Lutheran Medical Center in celebrating survivorship. 

After being diagnosed with cancer, Donna and Judy traveled as often as they could and enjoyed every moment together. Pictured above, Donna and Judy visit California’s beaches.

After being diagnosed with cancer, Donna and Judy traveled as often as they could and enjoyed every moment together. Pictured above, Donna and Judy visit California’s beaches.

Judy Kraft fought with courage and dignity until her passing on July 23, 2014. To honor her mother’s memory Donna, her daughter Jennifer and Patches, Judy’s rescued miniature dachshund, continue to race and be a part of the celebration. Through the support of community partners and participants, funds raised at the Leaves of Hope race help to provide patient navigation, survivor and nurse education, genetic counseling and patient care for hundreds facing cancer issues.

Join Donna, Jennifer, and Patches (who still joins in the celebration of Judy’s life at the race each year) on Sunday, June 4, 2017 at the NEW Heroes of Hope Run/Walk! To honor the 10th anniversary of the race on campus, Lutheran Medical Center is proud to share our new race name, and begin a new chapter of celebrations at Lutheran Medical Center. Celebrate with survivors, help to inspire those who are recently diagnosed, and support families who have lost their loved ones to cancer and be a Hero of Hope in our community. Register today to participate in the 5K Run/Walk, 10K Run, or 1 milk walk in this annual dog and stroller friendly race. Click here to show your courage against cancer, and be an everyday hero in our community!

Give Where You Live

Karen, like so many neighbors in our community, had fallen on hard times after losing her job. She struggled to make ends meet, and even after gaining new employment was unable to remain in her long-time home.

Karen moved into temporary housing while she worked hard to pick up the pieces and strengthen her financial situation. Her dream of a better life changed drastically when a yearly mammogram turned into a breast cancer diagnoses. Karen felt paralyzed, but as she began her battle with breast cancer she was never alone.

Cancer Centers of Colorado’s skilled team of oncology-trained nurses, physicians, and surgeons supported Karen and made sure she understood her diagnosis and the treatment options available to her. Support from our community ensured Karen would have access to the best, state-of-the-art cancer treatments and equipment. Using breast brachytherapy, skilled surgeons placed catheters in Karen’s breast tissue to deliver radiation treatment directly to the cancer cells. This advanced and effective treatment allowed Karen’s breast cancer to be treated with great precision while protecting her healthy tissue.

While undergoing treatment patient navigators helped connect Karen with local support groups, allowing her to meet other survivors and be introduced to a community network of support.

Throughout every step of her journey, Lutheran Medical Center made sure Karen was treated body, mind, and spirit. The greatest miracle of all, a miracle that you helped make happen, was when Karen was able to finally move into permanent housing thanks to the support of care management staff and Foundation funding.

The weight of her stress lifted, Karen was able to focus fully on her health and recovery and is proud to now be cancer free. For the first time since losing her home and beginning her breast cancer battle, Karen shared a Thanksgiving feast in her new home with renewed hope for the future and a clean bill of health.

Won’t you help to create more miracles in our community?

Make a gift today and help support patients like Karen by visiting