Alison Taylor Hornung ’23 was just 12 when she began sewing and selling hair bows at her middle school, fundraising for a local family with a child diagnosed with cancer. A decade later, she’s helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for pediatric cancer research and tailored her academic career to continue that work in the future.
It’s been a hard-won and heartbreaking education at times.
“I’ve made a million mistakes, and I’m still making a million mistakes. I ask a lot of questions because I’m trying to better my nonprofit for the families it serves,” she says. “And not all families want to talk about cancer all the time, but they also want to spread awareness about childhood cancer, so they’re willing to answer questions to help with that.”
Fundraising is not a sideline for Hornung, who triple majored in global business, German, and human development and family studies. Whatever comes next—she’s thinking of law school—will include the Glimmer of Hope Foundation, which she established in 2020 to honor her childhood friend Ella Integlia, who had died of leukemia a year earlier.
The nonprofit’s initial mission was to gift a bald American Girl doll to children with cancer. In the last three years, the foundation has expanded its offerings to include care and wellness packages for teens.
When Integlia was in treatment and lost her hair, she wrote to Pleasant Company, creator of American Girl dolls, asking them to create a bald doll. The company had such a doll; it just wasn’t sold in stores or featured in the company’s catalog. Ella’s mother told Hornung that her daughter’s wish was that every girl battling cancer had such a doll. For Ella, the doll was something from which to draw confidence, strength, and courage, Hornung says.
“Ella was the most special person, an angel on earth, and she made everyone feel included no matter who they were. People talk about how much she made a difference in their lives. If she saw someone sitting alone at lunch, she would invite them to sit with her,” Hornung says. “She was a light in everyone’s life.”
Hornung resolved to fulfill Ella’s wish. Since its inception, Glimmer of Hope has gifted 500 dolls to children.
‘Ella would be so proud’
“What Ali does for other girls and families is absolutely amazing,” Ella’s mother, Cathi Integlia, told The Ellen DeGeneres Show. “I say it to Ali all the time: Ella would be so proud.”
As part of her duties as founder and CEO of Glimmer of Hope Foundation, Hornung travels to Washington, D.C., twice a year to address Congress and advocate for an increase in federal pediatric cancer funding. Hornung is quick to tell you that Americans spend more on coffee in five days than the federal government spends annually on children’s cancer research. According to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, only 4 percent of the billions of dollars the federal government spends annually on cancer research is earmarked for childhood cancer. Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease for children.
In 2022, Hornung, then vice president of philanthropy and service on the Panhellenic Council for Greek Life, co-led fundraising efforts resulting in a record $200,000 donated to pediatric cancer nonprofits in a single year. She’s also been recognized for her work with national awards. Hornung is a past winner of the Myra Kraft Community MVP Award, which donated $10,000 to Glimmer of Hope, and a Disney Magic Maker, a Disney program recognizing good works, for which she and her family received a trip to the Walt Disney World Resort. And The Ellen DeGeneres Show also gave her a $5,000 donation.
Hornung used her time at URI deliberately, seeking out faculty with expertise in global business and mental health care. And there’s been a bit of luck along the way. College of Business associate teaching professor Ann-Marie Sacco, who teaches accounting, also runs a foundation. “All of my professors have been very supportive,” Hornung says. “Having a foundation means you need a board and a treasurer and an accountant—all of which I learned in business. And in human development and family studies, I studied counseling, and that has given me a good perspective on how to talk to families to help them on an emotional level.
“I know I will be able to use the knowledge acquired from my business degree to run my nonprofit, as well as the language skills developed from my German classes to help families across the globe,” Hornung says. “The strategies gained from the HDF degree will be of great use as I work with children and families and emotionally support them.
“I feel like my mission at URI is accomplished.”