Midnight skies, the glow of candlelight, and over 2,000 people joined together to experience an evening of heartfelt support and inspiration this past weekend. On Saturday, December 10, Phoenix Children’s Hospital put on their 5th Annual Ignite Hope walk and raised over $370,000 that will go towards patient care, research, and so much more.

Hosted by Vanessa Ruiz from 12 News, the night started off at North High School where families and friends could enjoy refreshments, engage in family-friendly activities, and snap photos with superheroes and the man himself, Santa. At 5:30 p.m., walkers of all ages turned on their battery-lit candles (complete with realistic flickering) and began the one-mile walk to Phoenix Children’s. As people started to arrive around 6 p.m., current patients and their families wanting to watch the program came downstairs and were escorted into the V.I.P. (Very Important Patients) section.

Acapella Christmas songs performed by the North High School Choir filled everyone with the holiday spirit at the start of the show. Their performance was followed by the ASU dancers and their lively routine to hip-hop renditions of classic Christmas carols.

After a boisterous applause for our talented performers, our 11-year-old emcee, Logan, came onstage to welcome everyone and explain what Ignite Hope meant to him when he was a patient in the Hospital.

He segued to funny videos clips where patients guessed how many people were at the event (we got answers anywhere from 4 to 3000), along with their thoughts on how Santa gets into the Hospital with no chimney (the most creative answer going to 4-year-old Casen, who said a giant hole opens up and Santa gets sucked through).

After a good laugh, the evening took on a more somber tone. Jacque and Steve Wagner introduced themselves as the parents of Katie, their 17-year-old daughter who passed away in her fight for cancer. The whole audience stifled back tears as they watched footage of Katie’s journey. In the video, she explained her story and how her family created Ignite Hope to provide encouragement not only for themselves, but for all the patients and families going through similar situations.

Ben, a cancer survivor, walked onto the stage and told his story about how music helped him cope. He pulled out his guitar and dedicated an acoustic version of “Hallelujah” to Katie and her family. The whole sky glittered with candles slowly waving back and forth as Ben’s song filled the night.

Logan came out once again and introduced a video of five patients watching from their hospital rooms. At the end of each clip, each patient encouraged everyone to wave their candles. The patients upstairs were able to look down and watch as a sea of candles lit up the night in their honor.

In the final moments of the program, Logan and Ben came out together and introduced a special guest—Santa Claus. After leading the countdown, Santa lit the Phoenix Children’s Christmas tree and thanked all of our participants for supporting our patients during this magical night.

Ignite Hope would not be possible without the generous support of community partners. Media partners are 12 News and Univision Arizona. Corporate partners include 2 Thumbs Production, 4 Sons Food Stores, Alpha Connect, American Textile Recycling Services, AmTrust Bank, Bank of Arizona, Bell Honda, Big O Tires, BillingTree, Cable One, Danzeisen Dairy, Dutch Bros Coffee, Elements Massage, Gila River Casinos, GKN Aerospace, HMS Host, Interstate Batteries, Odyssey Services Corporation, PepsiCo, Peter Piper Pizza, Phoenix Fire Department, Pizza Hut, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, Rubio’s, SSP America, Statistics & Data Corporation, The Ross Team – NOVA Home Loans, U-Haul, URun LLC, Valley of the Sun Active 20-30 Club / Valley Kids Foundation and Wells Fargo.