We had the good fortune of connecting with Danielle Kuban-Johnston and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Danielle, what inspires you?
What is my drive, what is my purpose, and what am I inspired by? My inspiration is observation of the “goodness of humanity”. At the young age of 19, I endured several events that instilled a tremendous amount of loss, fear, and doubt within me. After battling my own personal fight with cancer (Hodgkin’s Disease) my family was shaken with the news that both my mother and father had cancer. They both BEAT it; for only a mere 3 months and that’s when my mother was diagnosed with a secondary cancer. On May 7, 2008 I laid her to rest on the day of my 23rd birthday. I lost my mom, my best friend, and strongest supporter. I quickly understood that life is the only thing that cannot be replaced when lost. During my physical battles and emotional losses, I quickly realized that I was surrounded by a beautiful support system of loved ones. They lifted me up when all I wanted to do was give up. They showed me kindness, empathy, and compassion when I needed it most. I am inspired by those who give selflessly to others as these individuals did for me. As the years travel by and I continue my career as a Pediatric Oncology Nurse Practitioner and now leader in Patient Advocacy; I continue to observe this type of love and kindness for one another. I devote countless hours to cancer based non-profit organizations and as of 2019, I am the CEO/co-founder of the Pediatric Cancer non-profit organization, Dream Rydes! My success is attributed to my support system of family, friends, loved ones, and to those who give that I’ve never had the pleasure to meet. The people that I’ve mentioned have such a giving heart who share my mission and give their time and resources to children battling for their lives. In most recent times, there is an abundance of uncertainty and doubt in humanity. However, I can assure you that the act of caring for one another is not lost. Reach out and help others. If you have the power to make change, do it. Be a vessel, be the change, be the difference, be my INSPIRATION!
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
After watching my patients suffer through many financial struggles I noticed something consistent that many families face in regards to transportation. The cost to park in the medical center is $12 per day with no in/out access. Therefore, the accrual cost is astronomical when a patient needs to visit every day for chemotherapy until the treatment is completed. Another barrier is the less-than-ideal public transportation system that these children have access to but should not take due to their immunocompromised state. Lastly, Medicaid transportation is a resource offered to families whom utilize Medicaid insurance, but is often unreliable in pick-up times and only allows for the parent and the patient to ride. What happens if there is more than one child at home? These patients are already under tremendous financial hardships and access to childcare is little to impossible for many of these parents. I began thinking…how can I help these families? Once again, the signs fell right in front of me. One day during my office visit with a patient by the name of Kye who recently transitioned to hospice care, I asked “Is there anything you would like to do in Houston?” He said, “I want to ride in a cool fast car like a Lamborghini, because my dad has a truck and it doesn’t go as fast!” A friend happened to be touring Texas Children’s Cancer Center this day delivering toys for Christmas. The stars aligned perfect since he owned a red Lamborghini. We were able to partner up to give Kye his dream ryde! This was the last day I saw the “sparkle” in Kye’s eyes and after further discussions of how we can partner to make experiences like this happen for children like Kye… DREAM RYDES came to life! DREAM RYDES is a non-profit organization offering a full day DREAM experience for kids with cancer. They choose their “Dream Ride” (car, boat, or helicopter) coupled with a one day dream experience. We have partnered with local car clubs as well as IX Exotics to provide the entire family with a day they will never forget! The team at IX Exotics provides professional videography and photos for the families to cherish for a lifetime. All proceeds and donations collected through private sponsors, events, and personal donations are aimed to specifically aid in providing transportation services to families to ensure their child can get the care they so desperately need.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
I’m getting hungry just thinking about this!! As we all know, Houston is home of the best restaurants in the country! If my best friend was visiting for a week I would take them on a full Houston culinary experience! My Friday evening “go-to” when friends or family arrive is Tex-Mex and margaritas! My top three choices are El Tiempo, Tony’s and Candente. My favorite weekend brunch location is Toulouse in River Oaks District. It’s rare to find a large outdoor patio in the city with a great atmosphere. Tuna tartar and a glass of rose are right up my ally. Following brunch, a day of pampering with a manicure/pedicure and massage is an ultimate relaxation day! My top pick for a weekend dinner is Steak 48. I could rave all day about Dane and Chris and their impeccable customer service! Other terrific choices within the city are Killen’s STQ, B&B Butchers, and Guard and Grace. Regarding daytime activities, I enjoy taking visitors for a little sightseeing to enjoy the outdoor activities Houston has to offer. There is a robust amount of art instillations and murals throughout the city. A cozy picnic in discovery green as well as a jog in memorial park makes for the perfect day. Houston also offers an array of local craft breweries with my two favorites being Saint Arnold and Karbach brewery. These are terrific spots to sit back, relax, and enjoy some quality time with good friends. During a weeklong visit, I always devote a couple nights to staying in, relaxing, catching up, and ordering some of my favorite to-go items. On any given Sunday evening you will find me couch surfing with one of three meals: Pepper twins, Rice box, or Mico’s chicken! Can you tell I’m a foodie?! There you have it…my dream week in H-town!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I could list an abundance of individuals over the course of my life who have shaped my success. I would like to give the BIGGEST shoutout to my mom, dad, and aunt for raising me with the values and mindset that success is earned through diligence, determination, and respect of those around me. A special thank you also goes out to my husband, Jason, who has stood by my side over the last 13 years and supported ALL of my endeavors. He is my “think box” who I can bounce my craziest ideas off and is my proudest supporter! His devotion is unwavering and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. I would also like to thank my friends, from childhood-to-present, for holding my hand through some of my most challenging and some of my most rejoicing times in my life! I also give my sincerest gratitude and appreciation to my patients and their families at Texas Children’s Hospital in which I served for 9 years. My patients are the ‘WHY’ to my pursuit of passion and these families are my inspiration! I simply cannot fathom having a child diagnosed with cancer and the gut-wrenching feeling a parent feels every second of every day. I see first-hand how grateful families are to receive support in any form. If Dream Rydes can add even a slight glimmer of hope back into these families lives and relieve a financial burden for parents then we are successful. I would give many thanks to my co-founder Chris Mastrangelo for playing a fundamental role in the development and vision of Dream Rydes. Thank you to our digital and website designer, Aaron Ogdon, and project manager Claudette Ferro for keeping me in line! Lastly, I would like to give my most recent shoutout to my baby girl, Abrielle, who has forever changed my life! She is my everything – my heart, my soul, and my entire world. I hope to raise her in a world in which she cherishes her life and has a heart filled with kindness and compassion.
Allison Ermon Photography H&D Media Group: Dima Waqialla
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