It’s a New Decade Executive Director Dish

Here we are in a new year, a new decade!  I have to say, our team at ISF is ready for a fresh start.  2019 brought so many ups and downs for us, by the time the ball was dropping, I was left feeling a little unsettled from the year we just completed.  Each year we try so many different things to grab your attention. I made it a point to pull Isabella back a little and have us introduce you to what was going on in your backyard.  Our Mother’s Day series was our first attempt to really get to know the families at Levine and I was reminded of what a difficult job these Moms (and Dads) have on a daily basis. From this series, new friendships were developed and bonds were formed, as our staff became regulars in the hospital.  

September rolled around and I couldn’t be more proud of what we accomplished for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  I have to say, hands down – the “Through My Eyes Series” that our beloved Rachel Wood took the lead on, changed many of you forever.  Our team too. I’m not quite sure she realized what she was taking on, as so many families were eager to tell their stories about what their world looks like as they fight for their lives.  The response was overwhelming, as each post affected people differently. We showed you different cancers, different ages, different prognosis and in the end… different outcomes. It has become a series we will do each year because it changed the way we do everything here at ISF.

To complete the month, we changed the look and feel of Isabella’s race in its 12th year, thanks to the help of Firebirds, Tito’s Vodka and Noda Brewing Company.  The addition of the brunch component was a homerun for all attendees.  I can’t tell you how exhilarating it was to hear all of the feedback from the participants.  A new buzz and excitement were present for the first time in a number of years and it could be felt by everyone!  The race was the perfect bow tied onto the month that we all worked so hard to complete. We continued to roll into the end of the year with another successful Pumpkin Charity Ball, raising more than ever from both events.

However, with the good… can oftentimes come with the bad.  And our last quarter at ISF shook us to the core. Three big losses in two months.  We attended too many funerals. It felt so unfair to watch Rachel devote her life to finding a cure for cancer, only to lose her Mother suddenly to Ovarian Cancer in November.   A Couple of our “Through My Eyes” campaign families, also took turns for the worse. Our Ewing’s Sarcoma warrior, Corey lost his battle with cancer in November and our sweet, cherished Osteosarcoma warrior, Madison lost her battle a couple days before Christmas.  These losses left our team stunned, wondering if what we were doing was all for nothing, if we couldn’t save these kids. I have to say, we pondered some big questions on the state of ISF after these monumental deaths.

So, for 2020 – things are changing.  And they are changing in a big way. Our 4th quarter donation tributes were at an all-time high and we realized that people want to kick cancer in the ass.  We are furious at this disease and find ourselves more determined than ever. We can’t let up, not even for a day.  If anything, we need to remain more focused than ever. For this reason, we are implementing a new mission that we hope will change outcomes forever.  It may have started with Isabella and our mission with Neuroblastoma, but now we have more children and more diseases to take on and we are ready. We have selected national tribute grants in the specialties of Ewing’s Sarcoma and Osteosarcoma in honor of Madison and Corey, that we will focus our efforts on in the beginning of 2020.  These initiatives will help kids nationwide and we won’t stop until we fulfill them. We will also be taking on specific efforts in the field of Rhabdomyosarcoma for our little warrior Merritt, as well as keeping a continued focus on Neuroblastoma for little Brinn, Max and of course in memory of Isabella.

We are going to allow each donation to be focused on what speaks to you, whether it be a specific child, diagnosis, or area of treatment.  Our continued partnership with Levine is progressing with the Rare and Solid Tumor Program, as we anticipate new details to share with you all.  Our look, our feel, our events, our staff and the families– you will see it all change and grow in 2020. We are all grown up and ready to kick cancer in the ass this year.  Needless to say, I think you may want to be around for this ride – because it’s going to be our biggest impact year to date. Stay tuned… we have lots to share in the coming months!

-Erin Santos, Isabella’s Mommy

2020 ISF INTENTIONS…

As you plan for 2020 we hope you include ISF as you set your intentions.   There are so many ways to give back and get involved to make a difference for kids fighting cancer.  We have so many good things happening and we can’t wait to share, but until then we wanted to share a few intentions at the top of our lists.  

Set It & Forget It!: Know you are supporting our mission regularly by signing up for monthly or quarterly giving.  Our recurring gift option lets you set your donation amount once… and forget it! 

Facebook Fundraiser: Facebook makes it ridiculously easy to fundraise for the cause of your choice to help create change.  We invite you to commit to creating a fundraiser for ISF to help impact pediatric cancer. Pick a day to celebrate a cause!

3 Wish Society: The 3 Wish Society is comprised of dynamic, committed and passionate donors who have the influence and resources to significantly impact the efforts of ISF. Donors receive invitations to mission related and VIP social events throughout the year, seats at the annual Pumpkin Ball in late October, receive special recognition via website, social media and at every ISF event. 

Ambassador: It’s simple… sign up, set up your own fundraising page/goal and tune into ISF social media channels for messages to share. ISF staff will provide support every step of the way including an invitation to a kick-off event, tool kit with everything that you need to be successful, gifts along the way as milestones are met and so much more. Engage your family, friends and entire network to raise funds for our vital mission.  Be sure to learn more about our partnership with our Ambassador program sponsor, OneBlood, and learn how donating blood and encouraging others to donate can raise funds in this fight.:

Volunteer: Feel good for doing good.  We have so many fantastic and loyal volunteers, our foundation could not function without each and every one.  Set your intention to volunteer this year by signing up for our ISF Volunteer List. 

Sponsor & Partner: Join us as a Sponsor or Community Partner to make an impact in 2020. It is a great opportunity to increase brand awareness and engage with people in the community all while providing a significant impact on pediatric cancer.

THANK YOU to the following businesses who have committed to be ISF Sustaining Sponsors for 2020: Jersey Mike’s, NoDa Brewing Company, OneBlood, Scoop Charlotte. And to all of our wonderful 2019 sponsors and community partners, we hope you will continue to make an impact with us in 2020.

Summer Executive Director Dish

August.  Ahhhh…  I love August.  There are so many things I love about this month.  School is approaching, which means the Fortnite screaming will come to a screeching halt, AND I love being on a schedule and at home.  It’s time. My kids thrive on a schedule and we are all better people with bedtimes and alarms.  Also, vacations are coming to a close, which is a good thing for us here at ISF.  We try to stay motivated all year long, but emails we send tend to sit in an inbox during the months of June and July and usually around mid-August, and then begin to get returned to us much faster and the response time shortens.  We love that. ☺

Erin, Isabella & Grant at ISF 5K for Kids Cancer, 2011

For those of you who have been with us for a while now, you know our fall is the shizzle.  We do everything we can to make our flagship event bigger and better each year … with intention.  I personally love the our 5K/10K race more than any event we do because it is where it all started, which was with Isabella. I remember how excited she was as the event was approaching.  In Isabella style, she would always seem to relapse in August, which meant year after year, our volunteers, friends and loved ones would step up and put on an event to remember for her.  Some years she could run it with hair that could barely be pulled back into pig tails and some years she was pulled in a red wagon, chubby from the steroids of a recent brain relapse.  What I loved year after year was seeing the people who made this foundation what it is today.  I know everyone gets busy and it’s hard to stay involved with us year-round.  But the race was different.  People put it on their calendars, they brought new people each year who would say, “Holy crap?  This isn’t a race… this is festival!” and then those people would come every year after.  I also love seeing the new people who didn’t know her or me and are just blown away by what we do.  It all just gives me goose bumps to know it’s coming up… and it’s coming soon.

So, what can you expect this year?  Look, I’m not just going to say it’s amazing because I’m the Executive Director.  But it’s going to be amazing.  What you will see this year is an added component that we should have done YEARS AGO!  BRUNCH.  And we are not talking about eggs and bacon.  We are talking about a no joke kind of brunch.  We have teamed up with Firebirds, Tito’s Vodka and Noda Brewing Company to give you a brunch like you have never seen.  We are excited to share more Brunch menu items in the coming weeks, but here’s just a sample of what your taste buds may experience…

  • Chicken and Waffle Sandwiches with honey hot sauce
  • Smoked Pork and scrambled egg tacos with jack cheese and avocado pico
  • Beignets
  • Shrimp and Grits with Tasso Gravy
  • Muffuletta Sandwiches
  • Fried Green Tomatoes with Country ham, Goat Cheese & Pepper Jelly
  • Biscuit Avocado Toast with a Poached Egg
  • Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit
  • Kid’s Pancake & Doughnut Stations
Chicken and Waffle Sandwiches with honey hot sauce

Not to mention, a whole host of brunch drinks provided by Tito’s and Noda Brewing.  Bloody Mary’s anyone? 

So, for those of you who kick out the 5k/10k and try to fill your belly with Chick-Fil-A like you have in years past, you can still do that. and much more. Now, you have the opportunity to REALLY FILL THAT BELLY, and for those of you who don’t want to walk or run, you can just buy the brunch and chill, while your kids play in the Kids Zone and you bid on auction items.  Yeah, it’s going to be the shizzle as we say.  But you will need a brunch wristband, so you betta get one.

Be warned.  Tickets for the brunch are going to be more expensive on the day of, so don’t let the smells of the morning be the trigger.  Get on it now.  Register for the race, buy the brunch.  Be there.  This is going to be our best one yet.  Thank you to our title sponsor Red Ventures and BRUNCH sponsors who are helping us make this year epic.  Go to 5kforkidscancer.com for all the details.

And of course, none of this can happen without your support, so reach out to us!  Volunteer, help with the auction, buy something for us on #WishWednesday, create a team of runners, fundraise on our behalf, spread the word, bring your whole neighborhood, sponsor the race.  Just do something.  My team of women are working to the bone to blow you all away and sometimes just a little help from your friends goes a long way and motivates us even more.  

We can’t wait to see you all on September 28th.  You’ll find me in the brunch zone with a drink in hand – I mean… it all goes to charity, right?

Thanks for the support over all these years!

Erin Santos, Isabella’s Mommy

READ ISF SKINNY SUMMER 2019 EDITION

June Executive Director Dish

Wow.  Running a little late this month.  Every month seems to fly by faster and faster.  Our May was full of events that kept us busy and like most events, they drain us, so we take a little time after to recoup.  I loved everything about May as we turned our focus to the Moms who are currently in the fight of their lives with their children and their stories.  I think sometimes we forget just how many families in this area need us.  Our Defining Support, The Cancer Warrior Mom Series was one of the best series we have done to date.  We asked these Moms to talk about their struggles, how they define support and what organizations like ours mean to them as they go through treatment.  If you missed it – catch up here.

Our coffees also had a completely different look and feel this year.  We moved our location to the Duke Mansion and the days couldn’t have been more beautiful.  The sun was shining, the mimosas were flowing, and the inspirational stories were on point.  I loved seeing new faces in the audience and love the opportunity to share who we are and what we do with new people.  Our theme of the mornings resolved about Nurse Sarah who shared her story of how she was a 2-time childhood cancer survivor and how lucky she was to have the treatments she needed to ultimately find her cure.  She has gone to become a pediatric oncology nurse here in Charlotte and just a few months ago, she and her husband were blessed with their first child.  I sat and listened to her read her Mother’s journal entries from when she was in treatment and it brought back so many memories for me of how scary that time in my life was.  It reminded me of how lucky I was to have people advocating and supporting for our family when we didn’t have time to ask.  We all need to remember these families are counting on us to be their soldiers in the street, because they have more important things to worry about… their child.

And now here we are… June.  Kids are out of school.  Life seems a little quieter, but we still have a important milestone ahead.  On June 28th, Isabella will have been gone for 7 years.  This is crazy to me because she was only 7 when she passed away.  Her legacy is now longer than her life.  As always, I find the best way to experience this day is to partner with One Blood (formally CBCC) and ask for you all to go and donate blood, especially platelets in her honor.  Summer is the slowest time of the year for blood and platelet donations and they need your help.  Our platelet drive runs from this Sunday, June 23 through Saturday, June 28th, please honor her life and schedule an appointment.  Post a picture of yourself on social media – I follow along quietly that day and love seeing all of you who take the time.  It means so much to me.

Now, let’s talk about something exciting. First, we have a new presenting sponsor this year, RedVentures! Their energy is off the charts, we can’t wait for you to feel it! Second … who loves brunch?  Um… everyone.  How does Firebirds + Tito’s Vodka + NoDa Brewing sound? These companies (and our first ever brunch sponsors) love to give back to the community and are ready to provide you with the yummiest of yummy goodies and drinks on race day.  We know what works at our race… our 5k is fun (the 10 is tough), the kids zone is killer, the auction and raffle are like no other so why not make the day just a tad more fun for everyone.  I know nothing tastes better to me after a hard run like a bloody mary so let’s combine the two.  

You’re going to start seeing the Run and Brunch everywhere.  And it’s going to have a different look to it so it’s going to catch your eye.  Register before July 1st and you will get the brunch, and 2 drink tickets for free.  Build a team, get your whole neighborhood out there.  Don’t want to run?  We don’t care!  Just purchase brunch and come out to support a good cause.  Have a seat in the shade with a drink while your kids play in the kids’ zone and you bid on something amazing by phone while you gossip with your bestie… oh and it all benefits pediatric cancer research.  Win. Win.  Run and Brunch. Let’s make this year’s event, the biggest and best we have ever had.  Be a part of it.

Special shout out to JE Dunn and Brixx Pizza for their incredible fundraisers for ISF! JE Dunn donated $15,000 and Brixx Pizza donated $10,000… prime examples of ways our community businesses are stepping up for their community. Check out how each company raised these funds, maybe it will give you an idea of how to do something similar and help us fight cancer.

Happy June… well almost July!

P.S. – don’t forget to schedule that Platelet appointment for next week!

Read ISF Skinny June 2019 Edition