Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation’s (TBCF) annual Gold Ribbon Campaign and Luncheon was a deservedly huge success. The September fundraising campaign and October 4 benefit yielded $494,000 to benefit TBCF’s education advocacy, emotional support and financial stability programs.
The gathering at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara was a lovely al fresco luncheon and incredibly heartwarming program to celebrate and support the work of TBCF, the only nonprofit organization that provides financial, emotional and educational assistance to families who have a child with cancer in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties. Guests had the opportunity to bid on a unique range of items in a silent auction, including beautiful pieces from Carol Burnett’s cherished silver collection.
TBCF Executive Director Lindsey Leonard spoke about many of the young recipients she had met throughout the year, some who went on to beat their struggle with cancer, others who tragically did not beat the disease. “One thing that everyone here today has in common is the desire to help others,” said Leonard. “Everyone has chosen to give of their time and resources because you know our sick children need you because they are literally fighting for their lives.”
An inspiring group of young philanthropists who participated in TBCF’s Encouraging Youth Philanthropy program—which guides youth from elementary school through college ages through facilitated fundraisers of their choice, from concept to implementation to delivering the oversized check—were introduced by Premier Sponsor Earl Minnis. Some of the youth included: Dayne Carlson, who hosted bake sales, collected recyclables and raised funds through a percentage of his mother’s business income; Lily Groves, the youngest participant at age 8, who hosted a series of lemonade stands in her neighborhood; Isa Mireles & Talia Gerstenfeld, who produced a musical showcase featuring some of the best youth talents in Santa Barbara; Chloe & Griffin Kossen, who hosted a kick-a-thon event at their Hapkido studio; Alisha Mergaliyeva, who sold handmade art on Etsy; Reese Termond, who is organizing a dance showcase at her ballet studio; Ava Schuette, who donated her babysitting money to TBCF; Mia Young & Sarah Thielst, who started the Teddy Bear Club at San Marcos High School and hosted a series of bake sales at football games; Bella, Savannah & Paloma Valenzuela, who hosted a series of bake sales at Vons and at Isa & Talia’s Musical Showcase; and Sylvia Gilbar, Kian & Nica Greene and Sofia Tasca, who all raised funds online using Facebook and Mobile Cause. Together through their heroic efforts, these big-hearted young members of our community raised $18,000.
Attendees also learned about TBCF’s work from a mother, Nicci Carter, whose family was a recipient. She shared a moving account of her experience, which began when her toddler Garhett was diagnosed with high risk neuroblastoma and began treatments at Cottage Children’s Medical Center—ultimately losing his courageous battle at the age of 3. “After our son died,” Carter tearfully recalled, “my husband and I showed up at the funeral home to make arrangements and were told that TBCF would be covering the cost. The organization also provided Christmas that year for our children who had just lost their brother. It came complete with the tree and gifts picked out specifically for each child. TBCF does everything they can to offer support not just for the child battling cancer, but for the siblings and parents too.”
With TBCF’s mission so vividly exemplified by the Carter family’s experience, the event emcee, Andrew Firestone, presented the opportunity for attendees to Fund A Family through items of descending value, such as a hotel room for a parent to stay near the hospital if they live far away.
The Rudolf Schulte Family Foundation was presented with the Heart of Gold Award, highlighting the Schulte family’s enduring support for TBCF kids and families.
The Trejos family, who received support from TBCF when Madix Trejos was diagnosed with ganglioneuroblastoma at age 5, was presented the Pay It Forward Award for their ongoing work to raise funds and awareness for local families who have a child battling cancer. Madix is 13-years-old now and doing great!
Robyn Howard-Anderson was presented with the Humanitarian Award for working in close conjunction with TBCF for more than a decade as the pediatric oncology social worker at Cottage Hospital, and later as the pediatric oncology social worker at Ventura County Medical Center.
The Helping Hands Award was presented to longtime friends Tracy Angel and Shannyn Tupper. In addition to serving on committees and coordinating events for TBCF, they started, and have continued to run, a Santa Barbara-North County beneficiary event, Sangria Soiree.
It would have been difficult to match the feeling of warmth and spirit of giving, were it not for TBCF children coming together to end the program with a joyful song led by Grammy Award-winning musician Justin Fox, lead singer of Dishwalla. Fox had graciously been practicing with the kids, spending time with them in his studio to record the track.
Since its founding in 2002, TBCF has awarded more than $2 million in financial assistance to 2,142 individuals living in the Tri-County Region. For more information or to make a donation, call 805/962-7466 or visit teddybearcancerfoundation.org.
Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on October 30, 2018.