OC man launches program to help low-income cancer patients

ORANGE, Calif. (KABC) -- A man who lost his little boy to cancer is making sure no children miss their cancer treatment because they don't have a car. He launched the Ride with Emilio program.

It's helping children and their parents in Orange, San Diego and Imperial counties.

To some, it might just seem like a carpool van. But to Wendy Hernandez, the ride is literally a life-saver.

"I was diagnosed with brain cancer," Hernandez said. "I had never been in a hospital where I had to stay. It was scary."

At 18, Hernandez underwent radiation and chemotherapy for a year and a half. A big worry for her was how to get back and forth to the hospital.

"We're a family where we don't drive. My mom is a single mom," Hernandez said.

She got help through a program named after Emilio Nares, a little boy she never met.

"He was the universe of our whole life and being, and he was diagnosed shortly before his third birthday with leukemia," said Richard Nares.

Emilio passed away before his sixth birthday in 2000. His parents, Richard and Diane, created the non-profit Emilio Nares Foundation to help low-income families.

"Here in California, we take cars for granted. But the people we serve really need a ride to the hospital," Richard Nares said.

The vans travel 3,000 miles a month.

Hernandez -- now 21 -- says her cancer is in remission. She still relies on the van to get to checkups.

"If we didn't have the ride, I think we would be struggling," Hernandez said.

The non-profit is facing a struggle of its own: finding a van to replace one that just broke down. Richard Nares knows the need is great, having gone through it with his own son.

"I know he's looking down and saying we're doing good work," Richard Nares said. "That's really what our mission is, to give comfort and to really help these families."

For more information about the foundation, call (877) 507-7788 or visit ENFHope.org.

Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.