6th Annual Isabella Santos Award

Don’t ever underestimate the impact that you may have on someone else’s life.

Last week during our Coffee for a Cure events, we recognized three individuals with the 6th Annual Isabella Santos Award.  Each award recipient below has made a difference to those around them and continue to do so. They are out to make an impact and inspire change. And we love that they impact and inspire in their own way.  We thank them for the kind individuals they are, the admirable characteristics they embody and all that they have done for the fight against childhood cancer.

Tom Patania & Tim McBride, Isabella Santos Award Recipients with last year’s recipient Jackson Lowry (middle)


If you have ever attended a run in Charlotte, you know him.  His famous beard and part-time Christmas job may have you know his face, but if that’s all you know – you are missing out.  Tim McBride lost both of his parents to cancer and his story is amazing.  2 years ago he said he was going to run 50 miles in honor of losing his dad 50 years ago.  I came out and joined him on his run for about 11 miles and listened to him tell me his life story and how Cancer Messed With the Wrong Kid by taking both of his parents.  He runs for every type of cancer cause and is constantly fundraising.  He runs every single day – and as of today has run 2,324 days in a row – never stopping one single day.  He is one of our top foundation supporters and is our most loved Dream Team member for sure.  


We never would have met Tim, had there not been a Tom.  Tom Patania, our beloved Dream Team marathon coach graciously stepped forward 5 years ago with an idea of training a few people to run a half-marathon for ISF.  All in the name of his mom who lost her own battle to cancer.  5 years later, hundreds of runners and over $400,000 later – his impact became 10 fold.  Tom was up before the sun, organizing runs, water stops, cheerleading and motivating a team of grumpy early morning runners.  His positivity and optimizim was infectious.  He helped make runners and walker’s dreams a reality and in the same time – made a huge impact in the world of pediatric cancer.  

Christie Keagy & Erin Santos, Isabella Santos Award


Impact comes in many different forms.  Not only has Christie made a personal impact on Isabella and her family, she continues to volunteer for our organization by serving on the Auction Committee and volunteering for events throughout the year.  Christie is always available when we need a last minute volunteer to make something happen and she constantly spreads the word about our fight against childhood cancer.

“I realized the last couple of months of Isabella’s life we never heard her kids play outside ever.  She kept her children inside, so that I didn’t have to hear other little girls play outside.”  -Erin Santos

View all past award recipients

5th Annual Isabella Santos Award

Each year we recognize someone in the community who lives a life with the same dreams and aspirations as Isabella and who is trying to make a difference in the world.  This year we were excited to recognize three, as we found it difficult to pick just one.  Each of these three individuals have given back to their Charlotte community in different ways and we are super grateful to have them support ISF and other local non-profits.

Jackson Lowry

Jackson Lowry

  • Jackson was Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at 11.  His mom, Tammy, backed out of running the Charlotte Half Marathon due to his medical condition.  The following year (when he was 12), Jackson knew that she had backed out the year before so he asked if he could run it with her. 
  • On Saturday mornings for 4 months-while all other teenagers were sleeping, Jackson was up super early running with the Dream Team on long group runs in honor of Isabella.  He finished his first half marathon in two hours and nine minutes in November 2016.  
  • Jackson has since volunteered at many ISF events to give back and has become re-committed to Isabella’s Dream Team for the 2017 season.


Lisa Weaver

Lisa Weaver

  • Lisa has stepped up to take a Leadership role with ISF for our Annual 5K/10K for Kids Cancer Event
  • Lisa continues to do selfless acts. In 2016 she won a trip at a charity event and DONATED it back to ISF to make a bigger impact
  • Lisa sponsors local businesses that are important to her family on ISF’ s behalf to help further their community impact and help ISF at the same time



Stephanie Grigg & Erin Santos

Stephanie Grigg

  • Stephanie supported ISF before ISF was a foundation.  From the beginning she would bring the Santos family meals when Isabella was sick, she attends events, raises money, donates money, and continues to volunteer her time and network to help us expand our reach
  • Stephanie is not only active within ISF but also supports the Duke Mansion Preservation Society, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, our local Mint Museum, Baby Bundles, Friendship Trays and is a member of Good Friends.


Looking Back: 4th Annual Isabella Santos Award

Caring. Compassionate. Leader. At the end of March we will be giving away the 5th Annual Isabella Santos Award.  Each year we recognize someone in the community who lives a life with the same dreams and aspirations as Isabella and who is trying to make a difference in the world.  Help us celebrate the past winners over the next week.

4th Annual ISF Award, Susan Sears (2015)

Susan is very well known in the Charlotte Community. Not only has she done so much for us at The Isabella Santos Foundation, but she also dedicates herself to many other great organizations like Go Jen Go, Komen Race for the Cure and Girls on the Run. Susan does everything with heart and with passion and puts in 110% to each cause she feels drawn to. A few years ago, we were lucky enough to gain her interest and a part of her heart. When we reached out to the people Susan works closely with in our community- the feedback we got was incredible. It is no surprise that they all love her as much as we do!

She allows her heart to guide her actions, and in today’s world, that makes her extraordinary. She loved Jen and Jen’s fight and vowed to make a difference in our community. She has certainly made a difference in our lives and we are honored to have her in our ranks!” Britt Yett, Go Jen Go

” She has been one of my first calls when I needed someone who would come in and make a difference. She is soft spoken but able to move mountains. We need leaders who are willing to go the extra mile, and Susan is always willing to answer the call” – Park Williams with Komen for a Cure

It goes without saying that our entire ISF team can personally attest to her passion as well. She has helped with our 5k for Kids Cancer, runs with our dream team, ran the NYC marathon to help honor Isabella, attends many events we have and is a consistent volunteer and supporter whenever she is called upon. She is truly remarkable.

The same inspirational qualities that we knew in Isabella, also shine in Susan. She has a way about her that is genuine, inviting and kind and we know without a doubt that Isabella would have adored her and they would have been lifelong friends.

Looking Back: 3rd Annual Isabella Santos Award

Caring. Compassionate. Leader. At the end of March we will be giving away the 5th Annual Isabella Santos Award.  Each year we recognize someone in the community who lives a life with the same dreams and aspirations as Isabella and who is trying to make a difference in the world.  Help us celebrate the past winners over the next week.

3rd Annual ISF Award, Emily Ratliff (2015)

Erin Santos & Emily Ratliff

In May, 2011, Emily Ratliff’s life was turned upside down when her daughter, Claire, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma. Just eight short months later, on January 17, 2012, Emily and her husband, Kevin, would suffer an even greater tragedy, the loss of Claire at the tender age of 2 years, 4 months.

Having grown up in Charlotte, the Ratliffs had lots of friends and family close by, who provided much needed support for the Ratliffs while Claire was going through treatment. That network of family, friends and neighbors quickly became known as Claire’s “Army.”  Although the Ratliffs had lots of support, the Ratliffs also encountered many families who did not have that kind of network/support or who were coming to the Charlotte area hospitals for treatment, far away from their friends and family back home.

As Emily grieved the loss of her own child, it began weighing on her heart and mind that she needed to do something to help other families going through the pediatric cancer nightmare.  From Emily’s heart and vision, the nonprofit organization, Claire’s Army, Inc. was established, with the goal of providing pediatric cancer families with an “army” who will support them just as Claire’s Army had during her fight.

Emily Ratliff and her father, Larry

But it is not just her work through Claire’s Army that keeps Emily connected to the pediatric cancer community.  Emily gives of herself more than her peers in one other huge way—her job.   After Claire passed away, Emily became a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and works on the very floor of the hospital where Claire was treated, assisting other families going through cancer treatment.  Given the de minimus salary of CNAs, it is clear that Emily chose her career field with her servant’s heart and selfless spirit.   Emily’s sweet, quiet, and compassionate demeanor is certainly a comfort to anyone who has the privilege of encountering her.

Emily Ratliff inspires others because she took the most painful event of her life, looked for ways to serve and support other families going through similar circumstances in her community, and then delivered in a big way.  Emily is an incredible role model for all to follow.  Even young children have been inspired by Emily’s vision for serving families fighting pediatric cancer.  For example, kids have donated all of their birthday gifts to children who are in the hospital through Claire’s army or hosted lemonade stands or bake sales and sent the profits to Claire’s Army to help other kids or hosted blood drives through their schools.  Despite her busy schedule of juggling family, work and a nonprofit organization, Emily still takes time to personally write these kids and thank them for their support for pediatric cancer families.

Emily works through the social workers and child life specialists at Novant Hospital to find out what the families’ needs are and then diligently works to fulfill those needs.  To the extent that the need is not something that the Army can fulfill, Emily sets out on a course to work other connections as hard as she can to make sure the need is fulfilled.  Emily never gives up fighting when she believes there is a way to make something happen.

Claire’s Army mission is to support families fighting childhood cancer.  Visit Claire’s Army website today to see how you can help out.

Looking Back: 2nd Annual Isabella Santos Award

Caring. Compassionate. Leader. At the end of March we will be giving away the 5th Annual Isabella Santos Award.  Each year we recognize someone in the community who lives a life with the same dreams and aspirations as Isabella and who is trying to make a difference in the world.  Help us celebrate the past winners over the next week.

2nd Annual ISF Award, Corianne Blotevogel (2014)

2nd Annual ISF Award, Corianne Blotevogel (2013)

We are convinced if Isabella didn’t pass away from Neuroblastoma… she would have grown up to be just like Corianne.  We wish these two could have met, they would have been fast friends (especially through their love of all things animals!).  Corianne has been described as a superhero disguised as an angel and through personal hardships, physical hardships and loss, she has tremendous strength and an incredible positive attitude towards life. Her motto: “it’s not about forcing happiness, it’s about not letting the sadness win.”  Corianne is always looking for fun and creative ways to fundraise for various organizations and we are honored that ISF has been one of them. Some of the many groups that she has supported in addition to The Isabella Santos Foundation are Big Brothers and Big Sisters, The American Cancer Society, Community Blood Center of the Carolinas, Headbands of Hope, St Baldricks, Coltrane Life Center, JDRF, Second Harvest Food Bank, Locks of Love and countless other Random Acts of Kindness that play out in her life on a daily basis. Corianne is the real deal and wants to make a difference for those struggling to win life’s many battles. Isabella would have loved Corianne and the many things she does to inspire and help others.

She also has been fighting her own battle with an incurable disease.  In 2008, she’d been perfectly healthy, running regularly, when she began getting sick.  Over the course of a month, she went to urgent care four times, but was only treated for her symptoms.  On the last visit they told her to go to an Emergency Room.  She ended up being found, passed out in the hospital ER parking lot, by a police officer.  Many days after being admitted, she left with a diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes.  This is not the type of diabetes that is typically linked with being overweight and sedentary.  Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune condition, where the body no longer produces any or produces only very trace amounts of insulin.  It’s not yet known what causes this type of diabetes, but it’s most likely from genetics and/or a virus.  A virus is believed to have been the culprit for Corianne’s diagnosis.

Despite Corianne’s Type 1 Diabetes, she continues to push forward and train for races year after year.  In 2012, she completed a full marathon while raising funds for charity.  Since then she runs many distances and continues to train with the Isabella Santos Foundation Dream Team…. all in honor of Isabella and other kids fighting cancer.  This lady doesn’t stop.

In Corianne’s own words…  just a few of the reasons she fights so hard:

  • For Isabella and her wishes to beat cancer, grow hair and live her dreams.
  • For the girl selling chocolate bars from her hospital room to help pay for treatment.

    2nd Annual ISF Award, Corianne Blotevogel (2013)

  • For the strong girl who is now so fragile.
  • For the girl that can’t sit up or walk anymore.
  • For the girl I made smile so big, then closed the door and cried to myself.
  • For the boy who can’t see anymore.
  • For the kids stuck in sterile rooms this weekend.
  • For the kids whose hope is experimental possibility.
  • For the kids who eat their breakfast, lunch and dinner via a tube shoved up their nose.
  • For the little bald heads, hair lost little by little during the fight of their lives.
  • For the moms and dads spending days, weeks, months in the hospital begging their kids to endure just a little bit more or handle yet another procedure knowing there is now a chance they will outlive their child.
  • For the kids who went home this weekend after ringing the celebratory bell.
  • For the kids who went home with their families and the news that nothing more can be done.
  • For the kids that are now only case studies, memories, pictures on walls and names of organizations.

“Change is possible when we decide to stop just talking and start doing something about problems. Cancer is a problem. I ran today for ISF, with Isabella and the dozens of other names and faces from volunteering at the children’s hospital this year running through my head because this matters.  #nomorecancer #isabellasdreamteam #actioncreateshope”                – Corianne Blotevogel

2nd Annual ISF Award, Corianne Blotevogel (2013)