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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)

Looking Back: 1st 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.

1st Annual ISF Award, Chrissy Bush (2013)

If you know Isabella’s story well, you know the name Mrs. Chrissy.  Mrs. Chrissy was Isabella’s best friend.  Her quiet giving blew us away over the years from afar.  For years, Mrs. Chrissy would get up at 5am to cook for the homeless on Saturday mornings, she volunteered each week at the free health clinic to assist in providing medical care for those in need, she fosters animals who need homes, she runs a diabetes camp in the summer for children and the list goes on and on.  The best thing about Mrs. Chrissy is that she never tells you that she does these things.  She does them because she honestly just has an amazing heart and wants no recognition for it.  And let’s not forget the thing that has touched all of us at ISF the most.. her love of Isabella.  She knew Isabella’s story was not going to end well but she still opened her heart to her and provided her with comfort, love and support like she were her own daughter.  For us there is nothing better than people like Mrs. Chrissy and Isabella in this world and they should be recognized for what they provide to our communities.  So many of us strive to be more like them each and every day.

 

 

 

4th Annual Isabella Santos Award

Caring. Compassionate. Leader.

These are just some of the many traits that we look for when choosing our annual recipient of The Isabella Santos Award. This award recognizes 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. We have had some amazing people receive this award through the years and this year is no different. At the 1st Annual Coffee for a Cure, it was our honor and our privilege to award it Susan Sears, who continues to amaze us every year.

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 equally 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!Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 9.49.01 AM

From the words of Britt Yett with Go Jen Go, “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!”
From the words of Park Williams with Komen for a Cure,” 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”

It goes without saying that our entire ISF team can personally attest to her passion as well. She has helped facilitate our 5k for Kids Cancer, runs with our dream team, ran the NYC marathon to help honor Isabella, attends every event 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. It is with great pleasure and honor that Susan Sears is now part of a list that humbles us and makes us very proud to call her a friend. Huge purple hugs to this amazing woman!

 

 

 

2014 Isabella Santos Award Winner is….. Corianne Blotevogel!

On Thursday, April 24th, Corianne Blotevogel was named the winner of the 2nd Annual Isabella Santos Award at the Ronald McDonald House “Girls Night Out Event” held at The Fillmore in Charlotte, NC. This special recognition is awarded to someone that shows compassion towards others and takes the initiative to be a leader and take action within their community. Corianne was selected among many incredible nominees because she embodies the things that Isabella dreamed about and wished for. She desires a world without cancer and to make a difference. She does incredible things for friends, family, causes close to heart and complete strangers. She works full time and still finds the time to do so many thoughtful things to help others. She has been described as a superhero disguised as an angel and through personal hardships, physical hardships and loss, she has tremendous strength and an incredibly 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. For these reasons, among many- we are honored and proud to present her with this very special award!

In addition, we also want to recognize two incredible women that were not only nominated but truly epitomize the meaning of The Isabella Santos award. These two women exemplify strength, courage, determination in the highest regard and deserve their own special recognition. Both of them have inspired countless others along each of their journeys and have left a lasting imprint on so many, forever.  The Isabella Santos Foundation is proud to honor both Jen Pangani (October 28, 1969 – February 2, 2014) and Paula Takacs (Feb. 14, 1974-April 13, 2014) as nominees and honorary award winners. Both of these women fought cancer with incredible passion and fearless bravery.  Both Jen and Paula will be deeply missed and we know that their legacies will live on in the hearts and actions of so many for years to come.

We would like to acknowledge each of the nominees that were sent in. To be nominated is certainly an honor and we feel that each of these individuals should be recognized. This year, the decision was very hard, as so many amazing individuals are impacting their community. Thank you for sending in your nominations for an award that we value so much! 2014 Nominees were;  Amanda Assell, Corianne Blotevogel, Robin Emmons, Courtney Hurd, Jen Pangani, Tom Patania, Chelsey Rains and Paula Takacs.

On behalf of the entire Isabella Santos Foundation team, we would like to thank each of the nominees for all that you do to strengthen your community and to help others along the way. In addition, we want to thank all of the special people who took the time to send in these nominations. We are honored, humbled and privileged to have each of these amazing women associated with Isabella’s legacy.

Erin and Corianne

Erin and Corianne

 

And the 2012 Isabella Santos award goes to…. Chrissy Bush

 

RMDH_small-logoNow that we have fully recovered, we thought we would share the amazing night that we had last Thursday at the Ronald McDonald House Girl’s Night Out.  The Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte out-did themselves once again by providing a night of Glamour and Giving at the Filmore for 500 women.  We were so honored to be the presenting sponsor for the second year in a row for them since they are so near and dear to our hearts.  The Ronald McDonald House was such an integral part of Isabella’s treatment over the years and so much of her treatment was made possible through their homes in New York and Philadelphia.

There is just something magical about getting all these women together for a great cause.  Food, drinks, silent auction items, high end fashion raffles, fashion shows and most importantly touching stories from different women who have stayed at the Ronald McDonald House.  We all loved watching these women walk the runway, some hand in hand with their own children as we all cried and clapped in amazement of these families and the organization that supported them.

E-SantosThe event carved out some time for us to introduce ourselves to the audience as well.  We are so proud of our new video that was created and we were excited to premiere it that night to them all.  The video does a wonderful job of really showing people who we are and what we do.  Needless to say, there was not a dry eye in the house.  By the time that Erin Santos was announced, the crowd was on their feet.  It was a touching moment for us all.

This year there was also a new exciting addition to the event with the first annual Isabella Santos Award.  They came to us with the idea of presenting an Isabella award to woman in the community who possessed the same values as Isabella.  The hope of the award was to reward someone who lives a life with the same dreams and aspirations of Isabella and who is really trying to make a difference in the world.  We were so thrilled about the idea and were excited as we started to see the nominations come in.

A couple of days before the nomination period ended, a beautiful nomination came across to us and we were taken back by it.  It was a no brainer for us at the Isabella Santos Foundation because we were very familiar with the incredible lady.  Many of you knew Isabella’s best friend, Chrissy Bush from Erin’s writings over the years.  Chrissy is such an inspiration to many of us because of her selfless giving.  Her quiet giving has blown us away over the years from afar.  We have watched her get up at 5am for 7 years to cook for the homeless on Saturday mornings, she volunteers each week at the free health clinic to assist in providing medical care for those in need, she fosters animals who need homes, she runs a diabetes camp in the summer for children and the list goes on and on.  The best thing about Chrissy is that she never tells you that she does these things.  She does them because she honestly just has an amazing heart and wants no recognition for it.  And let’s not forget the thing that has touched all of us at ISF the most.. her love of Isabella.  She knew Isabella’s story was not going to end well but she still opened her heart to her and provided her with comfort, love and support like she were her own daughter.

The best part of giving the award to Chrissy was the complete surprise that it was that evening.  Chrissy probably wouldn’t of even showed up that night if she caught wind of us giving her this award.  As Erin read out her list of accomplishments from the stage, those around her saw the emotional collapse that followed as she received a standing ovation from the audience as she came on stage to collect her award.   For us there is nothing better than people like Chrissy and Isabella in this world and they should be recognized for what they provide to our communities.  I know so many of us strive to be more like them each and every day.

Through all the hard work, we were so thrilled with how the event turned out and can’t wait to hear how much was raised for the house in Charlotte.  🙂  Thank you so much to the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte for allowing us to be a part of your amazing event again this year.  We look forward to many more years of partnerships with you!

ISF Supporters

ISF Supporters