The Faces Of ISF…Meet Andrea Isaac

Names/ages of children: Ryan (8) and Brandon (6)

Years married and to whom: Brett Isaac for 13 years

Years in Charlotte: 18 years

Neighborhood: Marvin Creek in Waxhaw, NC.

Hometown: Gaithersburg, Maryland

College Alumni: University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Occupation: Director of Strategic Partnerships with ISF

Years Involved with the Foundation: 3

What is your role with the Foundation: Director of Strategic Partnerships and Auction Director. I work to establish relationships with businesses in our community that want to support our mission either via sponsorship opportunities or auction item donations.

How did your involvement with ISF begin?  I started on the Silent Auction Committee, helping to obtain items to create our auction packages. I also volunteered whenever I could for various ISF events. I live across the street from the Santos family and what I witnessed in Isabella’s last few weeks was heart wrenching. My family and I knew we had to help and get involved in any way we could. Eventually, Erin came to me and asked me to come on board as the Director of the Auction, which then lead to Director of Strategic Partnerships. It has been an incredible life changing journey. Just another example of how Isabella has changed people’s lives for the better!

What is your favorite story about Isabella? I smile when I think about how she would dance and sing anytime, anywhere! She didn’t know a stranger either. She didn’t know me that well, but she was always very sweet and polite. She had an energy about her that I can’t put into words. She truly was a remarkable little girl! A week or so before she passed away, Erin and Stuart carried her over to our neighbors house to see a bunny that a sweet farmer had let them keep for a couple of weeks because he knew how much Isabella loved animals. Isabella couldn’t walk and could only really see out of one eye. She was skin and bones, so frail. All of the neighborhood kids were over to see the bunny as well. I was nervous that Ryan, my rambunctious 4 year old at the time, would knock Isabella over or be too rough. He shocked my husband and I with how gentle and caring he was. He helped her hold the bunny and spoke softly. It brought me to tears. Children truly know so much more than we give them credit for. The compassion he showed in that moment was something some adults could learn from. I will never forget that moment. That night, Brett and I cried in our bed thinking about the experience and realizing it was probably the last time we would see Isabella.

What is one of your top ISF moments? Honestly there are so many! One moment that will stay with me forever was after completing my first silent auction as Auction Director and realizing that we more than doubled our proceeds from the year before. It was such a proud moment for me. I then started to feel like I was truly making a difference in the fight against pediatric cancer and all the blood, sweat, and tears were more than worth it!

Our recent 1st Annual Coffee for a Cure was another top ISF moment in my mind. It was a huge success and we are still seeing the benefits of putting on this incredible event. Seeing the desire of others to help and get involved is so inspiring and it’s wonderful to see the good in people!

Another was running on the Dream Team and completing my first half marathon last year. I am NOT and NEVER was a runner. I actually despise running! I was convinced to give it a try and I stuck with it. Crossing the finish line last November was so fulfilling. I never even knew I would want to accomplish a goal like this, but when I did, it fulfilled something in my heart and mind. I can’t explain it but it was an ability incredible experience!

Ok, so that was 3…but trust me….I narrowed it down quite a bit. There are just so many wonderful moments with ISF…it was hard to pick just one!

Where do you see ISF in 5 years? I would love to see ISF have a national presence. We are doing everything now to lay the ground work for this goal and I truly believe nothing can stop this amazing team!

What is something you think ISF could improve on this year? Building a stronger employee & volunteer infrastructure so we are able to handle our incredible exponential growth over the past couple of years.

How has ISF impacted your kids? My boys have such generous hearts and I believe a huge reason is because they have grown up with ISF as a daily part of their lives. They have compassion for people that you can’t teach or force! I love that they see their father and I work so hard to support ISF and that we are making a difference. The feel that if they works hard enough they can make a difference too. I love that!  A cute example of their desire to help however they can is when Erin’s dog Baily passed away last year. The boys saw how sad they were and wanted to create BSF: Bailey Santos Foundation to help people who are sad when their pets die. My heart melted when they came to me with the idea…and I was laughing a little too! It was so sweet!

Who are your role models? My parents! They are 2 of the best people I know. They gave my sister and I a wonderful childhood and are an incredible support to us in adulthood. They are hardworking, generous, kind hearted, and responsible people! They have supported us though good times and bad, even times they didn’t agree with our choices. Their unconditional love has truly shaped my life. I hope that my children feel the same love from me that my parents made sure we felt and still feel! I couldn’t ask for a better parents or role models!

What is something about you that would surprise people? I have an almost debilitating fear of flying. Those who have flown with me know how rough it is! I have been known to have a panic attack or two and page the stewardess to have the pilot land the plane so I can get off ASAP. Unfortunately we were over the ocean at the time and that wasn’t happening. Given my history, I require a cocktail or 4 to get on a plane and possibly a Xanax thrown in for good measure. Pretty sure my husband has some battle scars from my death grip on his arm. My Aunt in Holland passed away from breast cancer and was always too afraid to fly so she missed out on so many wonderful things in the world and never got to come to America and visit her sister. I vowed to never let my fear hold me back…so bring on the cocktails!

What is your biggest pet peeve? When people don’t say thank you if you hold the door open for them or give you a wave if you let them in your lane when driving!!!

What is the hardest thing you have ever done? Losing my Grandmother. Her death was my first real experience losing a close loved one. We were very close and I cherish the time I had with her. I think about her every day in some small way. Miss her so much. Another was watching Isabella fight her cancer battle. She was such a bright light and seeing that light slowly dim and then go away was something I hope to never experience again.

What do you love to do in Charlotte? The weather in Charlotte is amazing! Taking our boys hiking is a favorite, or just spending time cooking out or taking the train uptown to spend the day.

What are a couple of your guilty pleasures? Oh my…there are too many to list but here is the short list: Squeeze Cheese, Salt and Vinegar Chips, Candy, Wine, the Walking Dead, The Real Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy (I think I may be the only person left who still watches), Naps, Tori Burch, Happy Hour Playdates!

Who is your celebrity crush? Ryan Reynolds

What is your favorite drink? Vodka with fresh Grapefruit! Yum!

ISF $100,000 Grant Supports New Therapy For Pediatric Cancers

The Isabella Santos Foundation is proud to announce a $100,000 grant to support a pilot clinical trial for children diagnosed with high risk neuroblastoma through the Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium (NMTRC). The funds come from the foundation’s first annual coffee for a cure in Charlotte, NC that raised $55,000 of the total amount, thanks to over 300 local women. Another$30,000 was given from All-in to Fight Cancer, and the remaining amount was given through general donations.

This trial brings a new drug, DFMO, earlier in treatment combined with antibody therapy. The drug is currently used in clinical trials to prevent relapse after high risk neuroblastoma treatment after standard treatment. The results of this work will be presented at the American Society of Pediatric Hematology Oncology Meeting on May 12, 2016. Currently still 12 percent of children will relapse during standard antibody therapy. This study will evaluate the safety of adding DFMO at this earlier time and evaluating the ability to decrease relapse rates.   This trial will be available at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte NC, the home of the Isabella Santos Foundation as well as other sites and led by Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“The Isabella Santos Foundation is excited to support new trials that directly impact children who are diagnosed with Neuroblastoma” said Erin Santos, President of the Isabella Santos Foundation. “Our daughter Isabella suffered 5 relapses of in her fight against this deadly disease so we understand the importance of specializing in this area. We are also proud to be a part of funding research that will directly impact our local Charlotte pediatric cancer community and are thankful for Dr. Sholler’s research that expands outside her hospital walls.”

Neuroblastoma is a cancer of the sympathetic nervous system which manifests when children are very young, with the average age at diagnosis being 18 months and remains a challenging pediatric cancer in need of new therapies. With this grant from the Isabella Santos Foundation, new hope is brought to many families.

“We are incredibly thankful for the support of the Isabella Santos Foundation which allows our research to pilot new ways to improve outcomes in children with high risk neuroblastoma,” said Dr. Giselle Sholler, Chair of the NMTRC and Director of Pediatric Oncology Research at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “We are hopeful this will make a difference in keeping children in remission.”


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In 2009, the Isabella Santos Foundation (ISF) was established through Isabella’s parents to raise awareness and research funds for Neuroblastoma, and received it’s 501(c)3 status in 2010. This foundation continues to fight Isabella’s fight in her honor and for all children who are fighting Neuroblastoma.


The Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium (NMTRC) is a group of 25 universities and children’s hospitals headquartered at the Helen Devos Children’s Hospital that offer a nationwide network of childhood cancer clinical trials. These trials are based on the research from a group of closely collaborating investigators who are linked with laboratory programs developing novel therapies for high-risk neuroblastoma and medulloblastoma. The NMTRC’s mission is to create a national collaborative effort of researchers, oncologists and family advocates to bring forward new therapies for children with relapsed neuroblastoma and medulloblastoma with the goal of improving the quality of life and survival of children with neuroblastoma and medulloblastoma. For more information, visit: Follow NMTRC on Facebook and Twitter @NMTRC.

The Faces of ISF… Meet Jeff Laughton

Names/ages of children: Brady (9) & Avery (8)

Years married and to whom: Karen for 11 years 
Years in Charlotte: 10 1/2
Neighborhood: Marvin Creek
Hometown: McLean, VA
College Alumni: Ohio University
Occupation: Anti-Fraud Strategy Consultant for Wells Fargo
Years Involved with the Foundation: 4 years
What is your role with the Foundation: Board of Directors, Director of Corporate Sponsorships
How did your involvement with ISF begin? 4 years ago, Erin and Stuart created the ISF board. They asked me to be a board member as well as manage everything surrounding our Corporate Sponsorships. 
What is your favorite story about Isabella? In the early months of knowing the Santos’s and specifically Isabella, she randomly gave me a hug without saying anything or asking for anything – she just wanted to give me a hug. It was a very special moment for me. I also helped Stuart move her play house in the back yard so that it wasn’t directly in the sun anymore as it was too hot. As I was walking away she looked at me and said “Thank you Mr. Jeff” – those were the last words I ever heard her say.

What is one of your top ISF moments? There are so many to choose from, but one of my favorite moments is when we announced that we had achieved our goal and surpassed the $1MM in funds raised.

Where do you see ISF in 5 years? In 5 years, I believe ISF will be a nationally recognized pediatric cancer foundation that is known for funding successful and impactful research trials that are saving children’s lives.

What is something you think ISF could improve on this year? We need to focus on being more strategic and less tactical which includes establishing a detailed vision for the future of the foundation, setting goals, and adding more structure.

How has ISF impacted your kids? Because both my wife and I are involved in the foundation our kids constantly hear us talking about the foundation. We also attend a majority of the events and bring the kids with us. They have embraced the foundation and believe in what we are working towards. One of my favorite stories that shows the impact ISF has had on my kids is when my son Brady overheard the parents brainstorming how we can raise more money so that we can continue our mission to save children’s lives, and he went home, grabbed his piggy bank and tried to give it to Erin. He also offered to donate his beloved collection of Skylanders for our 5k raffle.

Who are your role models? My parents – I am who I am because of them. They were both absolutely amazing people and I’m extremely proud to be their son.
What is something about you that would surprise people? At the end of high school and early college I had long hair.
What is your biggest pet peeve? When people are pumping gas and after the tank is full they continue to repeatedly pull the handle so that it lands exactly on the dollar even though they are paying with credit card.

What is the hardest thing you have ever done? I just recently lost my father to cancer and watching him go through what he did to fight it was both inspiring and unbelievably difficult.

What do you love to do in Charlotte? I think the White Water Center is one of Charlotte’s best attractions. My family and I really enjoy going out there to spend time together relaxing by the water, eating lunch there, listening to music, or challenging ourselves by doing some of the activities.

What are a couple of your guilty pleasures? Anything related to Chocolate, but specifically Dark Chocolate, Magic Shell (goes on Ice Cream), and Ghiradelli Dark & Sea Salt Caramel Chocolate squares, Game of Thrones

Who is your celebrity crush? Kristen Bell

What is your favorite drink? Scotch