Pediatric cancer patient to crown homecoming queen with $200K diamond tiara

Proceeds to benefit local charity

By Anna Johnson - Digital Journalist

ORLANDO, Fla. - Lake Highland Preparatory School's homecoming queen is set to be crowned with a tiara that is worth $200,000 and has an even greater sentimental value.

The Hope Tiara, as it is known, has been used to raise money for Orlando pediatric cancer charity Runway to Hope. A pediatric cancer patient sponsored by the organization will be the one to present the crown during the LHP homecoming event Friday night.

Through the school's Hope Tiara Club, students were able to raise money with the tiara while posing for regal selfies on Thursday. Each crowning of the Hope Tiara at a selfie station cost $1, the proceeds of which will be donated to Runway to Hope.

The Hope Tiara. Courtesy: Gianni Vincent Jewelers

The American Cancer Society estimates that 10,590 children under the age of 14 will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in 2018, excluding borderline/benign brain tumors. Of those, the ACS estimates 1,180 will die from the disease.

The tiara, which is adorned with more than 80 carats of diamonds and rubies, took nearly six months to design, manufacture and produce. Virginia Ann Rodriguez, owner of Gianni Vincent Jewelers, said she designed the piece in honor of her late nephew's fight with pediatric cancer. He was 15 years old when he died of bone cancer five years ago.

"Jewelry is what I do and to use what I do to further him, keeping his name out there, and doing good differently," Rodriguez said.                      

Runway to Hope's website describes the organization's mission as providing "direct support and aid to Central Florida children and their families impacted by pediatric cancer." The charity partners with local hospitals and treatment centers to raise funds, spread awareness and develop new programs for the children affected by pediatric cancer. 

Co-founder and attorney Mark NeJame said the organization is grateful to work with community partners like Rodriguez and provide help to families.

"She'll touch people that she'll never know she'll touch. She'll help save lives of kids that she'll never know and families who will be forever grateful who she'll never actually meet, but it's a wonderful feeling," NeJame said.

Rodriguez rents the tiara out for weddings and events. The rental price ranges from $1,500 to $5,000.

Ninety percent of the tiara's rental fee is also donated back to the charity. People are also encouraged to visit the store and make a donation to take a selfie with the tiara. 

Rodriguez said this is just the beginning. She hopes the tiara will get results by bringing joy to many and raising funds for a worthy cause.

"It would be a way for me to give back how much people gave back to my brother, my nephew," she said. "I can do what I do and repay that for somebody else."

For more information about the Hope Tiara, call Gianni Vincent Jewelers at (407) 217-7625.

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