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THE WOODLANDS, Texas – Ten years ago, in a field in Rob Fleming Park, the very first HOPE Under the Stars event was held as a fundraiser to help raise funds to save Will Herndon, a resident of 6 year old Woodlands. In June, Missy and Wayne Herndon received the devastating news that their eldest son had been diagnosed with a rare degenerative brain disease called juvenile Batten disease. With a terminal diagnosis and no viable treatment on the horizon, Missy emailed her family and friends a prayer request to pray for Will. The prayer request went viral and it received a wave of responses from people around the world. They sent words of love, faith and HOPE. These words prompted her to take action and not accept this fate for her son.

On Saturday October 20, 2018, with a ballroom of nearly 800 guests at the Woodlands Resort, the Will Herndon Research Fund celebrated the 10th anniversary of HOPE Under the Stars. The event raised more than $ 900,000 for research and funding for clinical trials essential for a treatment for juvenile Batten disease. Longtime friends Will and Nicole Murphy and Wells Fargo The Private Bank were the event’s main sponsors. Will and Nicole, the evening’s honorary presidents, were recognized at the event for their years of support and dedication to the fund.

“My wife, Nicole and I are honored to be chosen as Honorary Chairs for the 10th anniversary of HOPE Under the Stars,” said Murphy. “I sit on the board of directors of the Beyond Batten Disease Foundation on behalf of the Will Herndon Research Fund and see first-hand the progress this organization has made in batten disease research. Nicole has been a dedicated volunteer with HOPE since its inception, helping to lead the very first HOPE Under the Stars event in 2009. Our dedication to HOPE is strong and we are committed to fighting alongside Missy and Wayne to help save their son. , Will.”

The event had electric energy from start to finish. Members of Sam Houston’s Soul Lifters Gospel Choir singing “Lean on Me” kicked off the event. Missy and Wayne shared some exciting news on the research development front for what’s to come in 2019. Will Murphy has reprized his role as emcee and live auctioneer. The highlight of the evening was the moving speech given by Will’s brother Steele Herndon, 13. Steele spoke eloquently and courageously about the effects of juvenile Batten disease on his brother Will and their family as he begged the audience to get involved and help save his brother.

The program ended with a surprise for the audience and the Murphys of a traditional New Orleans second line who escorted program guests to the astonishing HOPE After Dark after party presented by Waste Connections. The event was entirely organized and chaired by Beth Landgraf and Erin Dore`, volunteers from HOPE and Jessica Kemp-Park, director of the fund.

For more information on the events or to find out more about the Will Herndon Research Fund, please contact Jessica Kemp-Park, Fund Director at 713.385.3981 or visit our website:

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