Paying it Forward… for Isabella

June 28, 2013 marked the one year anniversary date of Isabella’s passing. All of us at ISF knew that this was going to be a very difficult day and felt a little anxious as it quickly approached. Three-hundred-sixty-five days had gone by since she took her last breath and every “first” milestone had already been met with great anxiety. That is… all, except one. This milestone was certain to be the hardest of them all, so the question remained — how can we get through the day and make it a celebration of Isabella’s life, rather than focus on reliving that awful day.

Isabella was unique. She had a “special” soul and a “special” spirit.  She had a heart of gold, could make a friend out of any stranger, and honestly, inspired kids and adults alike, with a captivating power that most people never have in their entire lifetime. She affected thousands in just seven years. So the question remained… how do we pass through this day and honor this incredibly courageous girl in a way that she truly deserved?

With much thought, an idea was born. Isabella made so many people smile throughout her short life, so what better way of honoring her memory,  than by having people around the world do the same. We put out a call to our supporters and asked that they do something on Friday, June 28 to “Pay it Forward” for Isabella.

Pay it forward FB pic

It was incredible. Through Facebook alone we reached over 16,000 people and had 151 people share the idea on their own pages, reaching countless more. The good deeds were coming in faster than we could keep up with, and knowing that each time we read one, it was being done with Isabella in mind and on her behalf, the day that we dreaded so much was turning out to be an incredibly inspirational day.

We heard stories of people purchasing food for others; numerous charity donations made in Ib’s name; countless blood donations; random acts done for homeless people; candles lit across the world in her memory; children purchasing toys for other children; much-needed items taken to local Ronald McDonald Houses; snacks bought and distributed “from Isabella” at Disney World; and the list went on and on and on. It was simply amazing. People are good in this world, and although we do not understand why Isabella had to go through the horrible experiences that she did, in those moments and on that heartbreaking day, her life not only made sense, but the affect it had on others was proving to be incredible. It was an inspirational ripple effect, stemming from the heart of a 7-year-old girl. Wow. And the stories we heard were a drop in the bucket to the random acts of kindness that were actually occurring.

In addition to “Paying it Forward,” we also thought doing a PURPLE balloon release in her memory would allow people to commemorate the day in a healing way. There is something peaceful about letting go of a balloon and watching as it floats to the heavens – toward a child. We felt confident that people local to Charlotte would participate in this event, but the response we received was overwhelming. While trying to keep up with the good deeds coming through email and social media, we were also getting pounded with photographs of these beautiful purple balloons being released ALL over the country.


The pictures coming in had landscapes of all kinds — mountains, beaches, pools and lakes.

Isabella Dr

In addition, photographs were taken in front of businesses, neighborhoods, blood centers, and schools.


And the most powerful… Isabella’s memorial. See the rest of the balloon release photos from the day.

ISF Balloon Release GROUP

In the weeks leading up to this anniversary, ISF launched our #ISF3Wishes campaign and it was at its peak momentum (to date). We were gaining new supporters at a fast pace and our exposure on social media was reaching an all-time high. Our goal was to get to 5,000 likes by our 5K Kids for Cancer Race on September 21 and suddenly we had this crazy idea that with everything we had going on, why not try to get there by an even more important date — June 28? We had passed so many other goals we never thought we would — so why not this?  It would be an incredible way to celebrate Isabella and the Foundation that continues to thrive in her honor, in her memory and on her behalf. So many people at ISF work tirelessly to continue this fight for other children dealing with pediatric cancer and we understand that a vital part of that is awareness. Social media can work like a wildfire, so we wanted to utilize this incredible tool we have at our fingertips. We rallied and had our incredible support system also rally. It felt like the ball dropping on New Year’s Eve as we watched our “likes” jump exponentially, moment by moment on the eve of her anniversary. The only word that can describe it is, exhilarating.

So… for a day that snuck up on us like a bad dream… it evolved into an incredibly beautiful, exciting, bittersweet and inspirational day. A 7-year-old girl truly had a ripple effect on the country and that alone could bring a smile to anyone’s face.  Most people don’t have that affect in their lifetime and seeing hers was mind blowing. No one knows how long their journey will be on this earth; we are guaranteed no amount of time. We can learn from her. We can only strive to be the type of person she was in her short walk. Every day Isabella is painfully missed, but to witness the impact she continues to have on people is humbling and can only make one want to be a better person. Regardless what day it is or what anniversary it is, or isn’t… please pay it forward. Always.

July FirstGiving Promotions!


We love FirstGiving!

Can you believe it’s already July?  I know for us with kids, the summer is going way too fast.  Just this morning I took a look at the calendar and realized that the race is less than three months away!  Yikes!  All of our planning is coming together and things are going to be amazing yet again on race day.

One of the things that we like to spend our summer on is the ramp up of our FirstGiving fundraising pages.  FirstGiving has been an amazing resource for us each year with last year topping out our fundraising just over $100,000.  The entire race day brought in just over $200,000 so this is just about half our our total fundraising efforts each year.  Traditionally, year after year we find that the same pages are created by the same loyal fundraisers.  But this year we are seeing a dramatic change in the pages that are being created.  We are so excited to see new faces creating pages and how easy it has been for them to get donations too.  I know what you are all thinking, “I HATE asking people to donate!”.  It’s not an easy thing for anyone to do.  But luckily with social media, email, etc.. the asking part is much easier than the old days of making calls or going door to door.  Now you just put your page out on your FB or twitter status and people just give..  pretty easy.  This year we already have $20,000 raised and we are still 3 months away!  Love it.


How cute are these shirts, right?

With summer upon us, seems like everyone I know is relaxing somewhere on the beach (if the rain stays away that is..).   So for our July promotion, we can’t think of a better way to reward you for your help than by enhancing your beach relaxation and showering you will cool ISF gear and gifts that help enhance your summer.  We get so many requests for our cool ISF shirts and merchandise so here is your chance to score it.  And if your fundraising really takes off – we reward you even more!

Without delay, here are our new July fundraising promotions.  Woo-hoo!

1. For anyone that creates a NEW FirstGiving page this month and raises at least $250 by July 31st, we will send you an awesome ISF package complete with our new tank or v-neck for women or polo for you guys out there, along with some additional ISF goodies.  Click here to get started on your page!

2. For our current FirstGiving fundraisers, if your page can reach $500 by July 31st, we you be entered in a raffle to win a new Kindle Fire HD Tablet!  For each $500 increment you raise, you will be entered again too.  So, raise $1500 by July 31st – your name is entered 3 times!  Soak up some of summer rays by reading the newest novel or stick this kids in front of a movie while you enjoy a glass of wine on your porch swing.  🙂  Ahhh.. sounds relaxing to me!


Soooooo relaxing

3. For ANYONE that donates to FirstGiving in the month of July, you too will be entered in a raffle to win the same Kindle Fire HD Tablet.  We know that some people aren’t comfortable creating their own page but still want to give, and we want to thank them for donating.  This is also a great promotion that you can mention when you tell people about your own fundraising page.  Just by having them donate, they are entered to win.  Pretty cool huh?  Want to give now?  Visit the page created in Isabella’s honor.


We are so excited to see this promotion take off and will be watching for progress the entire month.  As always, know that we are here to make things as easy as possible for you so contact us if you would like us to set up your page for you.  Our amazing Development Director, Maitland is just waiting for you to contact her so she can set it up for you.  😉  So email her at for assistance and pointers on how to make your page successful.

Stay tuned for our upcoming August promotion as well as details on how you will be rewarded yet again in September by how much your page has raised with amazing prizes, giveaways and VIP experiences.  We are crossing our fingers that we can pass the goal set last year of $100,000 and with your help, we think we can do it.

All of us here at the Isabella Santos Foundation hope that you continue to enjoy your summer.  Be sure to cherish your families and the memories that you are making together.  Don’t forget that the Isabella Santos Foundation 5K for Kids Cancer will be held on Saturday, September 21st in Ballantyne Corporate Park and registration is now open so get your entire family registered today!

Happy Fundraising!


Childhood Cancer Foundation to Host Golf Scramble and Blood Drive with Special Guest Archie Griffin