When Hayden Zavareei was 12 years old, she never imagined that a life-changing experience would not only alter her life, but impact the lives of many others.
Hayden was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia at just six years of age. She underwent a stem cell transplant at Duke University Medical Center. The now 18-year-old young lady, continues to fight to help others who are sharing in her story and experiencing some of the same trials Hayden and her family went through.
The 5th annual Hayden’s Journey of Inspiration golf tournament will be held April 30 at 9 a.m. This event raises money for the HJI Foundation, whose purpose is to offer free, unfurnished apartments to families with children receiving a stem cell transplant at Duke.
The HJI Foundation currently has three apartments, which the golf tournament helps support, housing families at a cost of $25,000 each per year. Families are able to live in the apartments, free of charge, with all the utilities and expenses being covered.
“Hayden was inspired by the people from here that helped her when she was at Duke,” Danny Britt, Hayden’s grandfather, said. “She decided she wanted to do something that could help others like her, who were going through the same battle.”
Hayden’s grandparents, Britt and wife Vicki, live in Clinton.
While Hayden was undergoing her transplant, her family had to live in an apartment in Durham so they could be close to the hospital. During that time, Britt said the generous donations and love and support of the community helped Hayden and her family financially.
“If it hadn’t been for the people of this community, they may have lost everything,” Britt added. “There are lot of people with big hearts in Sampson County.”
That love and support, the proud grandfather added, was what inspired Hayden to start initiating ways to raise funds to help support an apartment for a family. In the last five years, the foundation has been able to fully support three apartments and help 21 families. In addition to the golf tournament, a 5k is held each year in Maryland.
The foundation is currently seeking sponsorships for the tournament. Sponsorships are available for $100 (Bronze level), $250 (Silver level), $500 (Gold level) and $1,000 (Corporate level). The $500 and $1,000 sponsorship also include a team for the tournament (a $300 value).
Hayden’s Journey of Inspiration is a non-profit organization that provides assistance for families of children diagnosed with cancer and other life-threatening diseases that can only be cured through a stem cell transplant. It was named for Hayden and her sisters. Hayden founded HJI and strives to support families who must move to Durham for long periods of time for life-saving stem cell transplants. Hayden and her family had to make the move from Washington, D.C. when she was only six years old and being treated for a rare form of leukemia, after receiving treatment from Georgetown University’s Lombardi Center.
This journey for Hayden and her family was very difficult and for that reason, the cancer survivor has become dedicated to easing the burdens of the journey other families may go through. HJI renovated apartments to make them safe for families of children with compromised immune systems and makes these homes available to families who are already enduring the challenges cancer brings.
The tournament will be held Saturday at Coharie Country Club. During most tournaments, more than $20,000 is raised for HJI and organizers are hoping to exceed that amount this year. All proceeds from the tournament will go directly to the HJI Foundation. Britt said a large number of private donations also contribute to the foundation.
To learn more, visit www.hjifoundation.org. For more information about the tournament or to register, please contact Dickie Walters at 910-592-2951.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.