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!