Hope Wells, 23, of West Philadelphia, a 2018 La Salle University graduate and a tireless advocate for cancer patients, died Tuesday, July 21, of acute myeloid leukemia at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
About this time last year, leukemia had put Ms. Wells in the hospital yet again. But as always, she wasn’t about to let her disease define her.
From her hospital bed, she began a public awareness campaign for Be the Match, the bone marrow donor network, to help others with cancer. She even mailed beauty products as donor incentives between her chemo treatments.
“She was an advocate. She was fearless,” said her eldest sister, Charity. “She was a strategist. She was a passionate and selfless spirit.”
Two days before her death, The Inquirer published a story in its Sunday UpSide section about a video that Ms. Wells’ five sisters — they called themselves the Hope Fighters — created with messages from more than 200 friends and family members to lift her spirits while she was hospitalized.
When she awoke and saw the article, she wept tears of joy, her family said. Despite her waning strength, she spoke of gratitude.
“She made the statement: ‘Every day I live is a blessing. Every day I live in pain is a blessing. Every day I suffer is a blessing,’” Charity Wells said. “She was just so grateful to live another day.”
Raised in a close family by the Rev. Michael Wells and Patricia Wells, Ms. Wells and her sisters attended Beulah Baptist Christian Day School in Philadelphia and the Christian Academy in Brookhaven. The sisters sang a cappella together at their home church, Beulah Baptist, and at other churches when their father was a guest preacher.
Ms. Wells was also active in the church’s youth ministry and was a volunteer with the Martin Luther King Jr. Association for Nonviolence.
She planned to do work that would help cancer survivors, their families, and the larger community. While at La Salle, Ms. Wells was active in student government and the African American Student League, and strove to be a voice for diversity and inclusion on campus.
She was also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and launched a brand ambassador program with the national beauty line Shea Moisture.
Ms. Wells was an artist and dancer, and loved to travel. As a teenager, she took part in a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. While at La Salle, she studied abroad in Mexico, France, and Germany.
The six Wells sisters — the others are Faith, 24; Joy, 22; Grace, 20; and Glory, 16, in addition to 26-year-old Charity — were named for Christian virtues, and the family says they live up to their names. That seemed especially true of Hope, they said. She was an inspiration to her sisters.
“Hope would run toward the things that most people would be nervous to do,” said Glory Wells. “She pursued any opportunity with a passionate spirit and encouraged others to do the same.”
“She left a legacy in such a short time on this earth,” said Grace Wells. “She touched so many lives without even knowing.”
In the weeks before she died, Ms. Wells’ father helped fulfill her dream of forming a nonprofit, Hope for Hope. Possible projects include job fairs and help for cancer survivors and their families.
In addition to her parents and sisters, Ms. Wells is survived by aunts, uncles and cousins.
A Celebration of Life service will be held Saturday, Aug. 8, at Christ Community Church, 4017 Chestnut St. There will be a public viewing before it from 8 to 11 a.m.