Childhood Cancer Foundation Donates Record $1 Million Amid Unusual Year

ISF Newsletter, New Year Edition (Don’t receive our newsletter, sign up here)

During a challenging year when charities are seeing a decline in donations, the Isabella Santos Foundation (ISF) has experienced an elevation in support like no other year.  For the first time since the foundation was established, ISF gave away $1Million dollars in the fight against pediatric cancers in 2020. $1,002,892.15 to be exact!

“Sometimes in life, a milestone sneaks up on you and you never saw it coming.  This year one of those milestones occurred here at ISF.  

It was November and thanks to Maitland, our Director of Operations, our financial outlook this year is laid out in detail for me every single day – maybe to a ridiculous degree.  Our events were behind us and we had 60 days to line up Giving Tuesday, End of Year Donations, and follow up on promises made throughout the year.  A number started becoming more clear… our giveback.  We were inching closer to a $900,000 total amount towards our mission and there were still some outstanding donations we knew were coming in. Once I saw $900,000, I have to admit, I became pretty obsessed with the last $100,000. I could see something extraordinary unfolding, on the horizon. 

Poor Maitland would take calls from me every couple of days with different scenarios.  What if this happened, what if this person did this… I knew it was possible.  But Maitland is the best at her job because she is also conservative and smart when it comes to ISF.  Each week we got closer and donations were coming in.  I knew we could do it, but I needed her to say it could truly happen.  So when we spoke on December 28th, we saw it finally fall into place.  We did it.  We made it for 3 days.  You know how they say every vote counts in an election?  Well, every dollar counted.  And after all these years of building this thing for Isabella – we did it.  

Sure, there are many charities out there that give a million dollars all the time.  But when our team of four employees settled in on this special call – it felt different.  The four of us have been doing this thing together for many years now, so it felt extra special to share this news and have it be all of us jumping up and down.  What a year we had – and we have YOU all to thank.

I needed to be sure before I told Isabella.  So once the books were closed, I found myself at Pike’s Nursery.  Just walking around in there got me choked up.  It’s where I always found something special for her.  As I walked out into the greenhouse, a big pot of purple flowers caught my eye – and just like that, I was on my way.  I don’t visit her often, because sometimes while I am sitting there, I wonder what she would think of my new life.  But today I found myself walking a bit faster from the car.  I sat them down in front of her and kissed the plate bearing her name and just said, “We did something really big for you baby”.  And that’s all I really said.  I just sat and let happy tears roll down my face.   I wanted to tell her first, because as always – for me it’s always been about her.  She is doing all this through us and through you.  The program is growing, kids are flowing to Charlotte, we have the best doctor, we are making trials happen – we are doing it all.  

We raised $7,000 our first year and we thought we were so proud.  Little did we know that one day we would be here – giving away a million dollars.  I’m not sure I ever thought this day would come but now that it’s here I feel like it’s just the beginning.”  – Erin, Isabella’s Mommy

At the beginning of 2020, we sharpened our mission to focus on three areas. It was Isabella’s wish to BEAT Cancer, GROW Hair, and LIVE Her Dreams.  ISF updated its mission to fulfill these wishes in three categories. BEAT (investing in pediatric cancer research to fund a cure), GROW (strengthening treatments for rare pediatric cancers), and LIVE (supporting families impacted by childhood cancer). In the new mission’s inaugural year, ISF gave back to each of these categories which creates a 360-degree impact for kids fighting rare cancer, thanks to the extraordinary support of donors.

2020 has created tremendous obstacles for charities around the country with fundraising heavily reliant on in-person events and beneficiary opportunities. Many of these could not take place, so we reinvented our focus and shifted towards establishing new programs. Thinking outside of the box was a must for survival this year and the traditional mindset of fundraising took a backseat in order for new funding paths to emerge. These included a virtual 5K that broke fundraising records and a dynamic internship program to harness the fundraising fuel from college and high school students.  Additionally, the emphasis turned to obtaining support from businesses that were thriving, growing individual peer-to-peer opportunities in new ways, partnering with philanthropic grantmakers, and collaborating with tribute/legacy cancer families. 

Over the next week, we look forward to sharing on our social media channels how much we gave through each of our mission categories.  Make sure to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram

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