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.

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