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Isabella Santos Foundation 5K and 10K for Kids Cancer Raises $225,000

The Isabella Santos Foundation announced that its 11th Annual 5K/10K for Kids Cancer and 1-Mile Fun Run has raised $225,000.

Three thousand people participated in this year’s race that took place on Sept. 29 in Ballantyne Corporate Park. The family-friendly event also featured a post-race festival that included: a Kids Fun Zone with games, face painting, slides, jump house and photo booth; food and refreshments; activity booths; and a silent auction and raffle. Brighthouse Financial served as the presenting sponsor. The following is a link to additional event sponsors.

“Huge thanks to all who joined us for our annual 5K and 10K for Kids Cancer! The event was a big success and a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Isabella’s life and raise funds for pediatric cancer research,” said Erin Santos, Executive Director and President of the Isabella Santos Foundation. “We appreciate our generous sponsors and dedicated staff, volunteers, participants and spectators for supporting Isabella’s dream of a world with no more cancer.”

About Isabella Santos Foundation

The Isabella Santos Foundation (ISF) is a 501(c)3 childhood cancer foundation dedicated to raising funds for research for neuroblastoma, other rare pediatric cancers, and charities that directly impact the lives of children with cancer. ISF was founded in honor of Isabella Santos from Charlotte, N.C. who lost her battle against neuroblastoma. ISF works to improve rare pediatric cancer treatment options in an effort to improve the survival rate of kids with cancer. For more information, visit www.isabellasantosfoundation.org  or follow ISF on Facebook (www.facebook.com/IsabellaSantosFoundation), Instagram (www.instagram.com/theisfoundation) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/TheISFoundation)

Mother-Daughter Duo Making a Difference

Charlotte and Jennifer Gaston

Charlotte Gaston was just 11 years old when she got involved in the Isabella Santos Foundation. Her mom, Jennifer, was serving on the ISF 5K/10K for Kids Cancer marketing committee and brought Charlotte to a meeting. It was there that Charlotte shared some great ideas and was asked to join the committee.

Since getting involved in 2012, Charlotte has volunteered on the marketing committee and at the race, run in the event, and used her creative skills to fundraise for ISF. She made earrings and hair ties to sell for donations for ISF, and painted a canvas at Bella’s Birthday Bash at Small Hands Big Art. The painted canvases from the event were used in various ISF events throughout the years.

“I was just along for the ride with Charlotte’s great ideas that she brought to the table,” said Jennifer. “Charlotte and I have volunteered, distributed race materials to retail stores and have done her projects together. Sharing this experience with her has been very rewarding.”

Charlotte also helped coordinate ISF’s T-Shirt contest where she brought together students from area high schools to collect the entries and select the winning design, which was featured on the kids’ race shirts. In addition, she assembled bracelets for ISF’s Coffee For A Cure.

“It is so cool seeing how much the Isabella Santos Foundation has grown and the impact we have all had over the past six years,” said Charlotte who is now a senior at Ardrey Kell High School. “I want to stay involved as much as possible this year before I head off the college.”

Jennifer also continues to stay involved as a volunteer for the race and Coffee For A Cure, and is passionate about introducing her friends to ISF. “Volunteering with the Isabella Santos Foundation has been a great experience for both of us and has helped Charlotte see what an organization like this is capable of with the support of a lot of people,” says Jennifer. “This experience has been very meaningful and will help her in college about how to get involved and make a difference.”

2nd Annual ISF Kids T-Shirt Design Contest

2016 Design Winner

Back again!  The ISF youth t-shirt designs we received last year were so cute… we have to do it again.  Kids ages 5-12 years old are invited to submit an original logo design for the Isabella Santos Foundation 5K/10K race event.  The winning logo design will be feature on t-shirts given to all YOUTH participants at the ISF 5k/10K event.  Thank you Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates, P.A. for sponsoring the ISF Kids T-Shirt Design contest for a second year!

This year we were super excited to have our favorite art studio, Small Hands Big Art, host a T-Shirt Design Workshop last week to kick off the contest.  We were also super excited that it filled up immediately.  Many creative and cute designs came to life and now we are opening the contest up for emailed entries.  This being our 10th Anniversary, we are looking for a design that reflects that significance!  Parents- this is the perfect time to talk to your child about ISF, about kids fighting cancer and get them excited about participating in the 5K/10K/Fun Run event on September 30th!

The deadline for entries is Monday, August 28th.  Email scanned design to:  info@isabellasantosfoundation.org

Small Hands Big Art Design Workshop

DETAILS:

  • Ages 5-12
  • Design must be drawn by hand
  • Design must include one of the following elements:
    • ISF Girl
    • The number 10 (10th)
    • The World (earth)
  • Design must be drawn on a piece of plan white paper, 8 1/2 x 11
  • T-shits will be a shade of purple
  • Deadline for entries is Monday, August 28th.

 

LAST YEARS DESIGN SUBMISSIONS 

Why She Did it…

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Why she did it…

Yesterday, I told my Mom I’m going to take a break from writing. I want you to write a blog on what the experience has been like from your point of view. Do what I do, have a glass of wine, sit on the back patio for 20 minutes, and write like you are talking to someone. What followed was not a traditional blog.

She wanted to do it, but it was hard for her. When I say that she put 6 hours into it, I’m not lying. She wrote, she revised, she had me read it and she cried. “It’s terrible. It in no way says what I want it to say. It’s just too hard to put into words.” I think she did a pretty great job of telling you her side of the story. But in case she missed a few things, here is what I saw from my point of view.

She was amazing. We received the worst news of our life and she didn’t flinch. She took a leave of absence from work and moved her life into our home. She did all the unglamorous tasks. She changed diapers, she did dishes, she gave baths, she made dinner, she did laundry, and she stepped in when I had to step out. She also lived with Stuart and I during the most stressful time of our life. That task in itself was worthy of a medal.

She put her life on hold. She didn’t get paid. She CANCELED her own wedding, due to a relapse of Isabella’s.

She traveled with me to New York. She kept my mind busy while I had to wait for scan results. She raised Grant. She raised Sophia. She raised me.

She disciplined Isabella, which was a hard thing to do. She kept her in line and knew when to be her Grandma and when to be her Mom. She kept me in line and knew when to be my Mom and when to be my friend. No matter what Stuart and I were going through, she had my back. She would yell at him when I couldn’t and try to fix us when we were unfixable.

When Isabella would relapse, she would be my first call. She would talk me off a ledge and help me make arrangements. I would go to bed that night and wake up to a doorbell ring. There she would be standing on my front porch. She would drive through the night 12 hours to be there. I would break down when I saw her because she always knew what to do without asking.

She was as close as you could be without being right there. Which is a hard thing to explain. She wasn’t making the decisions but she was implementing them. She was giving medicine and catching vomit in buckets. She was rubbing backs and changing bandages, but she was never in the spotlight. She never wanted to be. She would just tell me over and over how we were making the right decisions and that we were strong and how proud she was of me but honestly she was right there along side us.

She took the lead on dangerous radiation treatments when Isabella relapsed in the brain. I was pregnant with Sophia and it was too dangerous for me to be around that amount of toxic radiation. So she stepped in and slept behind a lead wall, allowing her own body to be radiated so that mine wasn’t affected.

She was Isabella’s second Mom and Isabella knew that Grandma would take care of her. Isabella adored her and often times would want to be with her over me because they just had this connection. It wasn’t just Isabella either. She raised Grant. And if you see them together today, it’s a bond that is unlike anything you have ever seen. The love he has for her is close to that of a Mother and it should be. She was his Mom.

She was all I had when I felt like I had nothing. I could tell her anything – no matter how bad it was. Some days I was ready for Isabella to die and she is the only one I could say that to. She would hold me up when I was ready to fall and held my hand through everything. She is the only person that I allow to give me honest feedback in my life because she is the only person in my life that knows the true me. You also never realize how much you want your Mom to crawl in bed with you when you are sobbing until she does it. She never said anything. She just got in bed and let me cry on her.

And in the last week of Isabella’s life, it was painful for me to watch Isabella shut her out. No one was allowed to be with her except Stuart and I in the end. My mom had been there from the first day to that moment and Isabella put up a wall with her. My mom was forced to lay with her only when she was asleep. But she took every single minute she could. She once again took on the most unglamorous tasks like cooking corn casserole when Isabella craved it, only to watch her not eat it. “It’s okay,” she would say to me. “I’ll do anything she wants.” We even made her drive to get Grant the morning Isabella died. We should be shot for what we put her through.

I regret all the horrible things we made her do during those years. But if you ask her, it was the best gift we could have given her. It’s hard to put into words what people like her do for your life. Sometimes you are just given someone in your life that is a true blessing and you can’t imagine your life without them. I seem to shut out everyone in my life these days. But my Mom is the one person that will never see my wall. She is the person I strive to be in my life and what I get from her is the definition of a Mother’s love. I will never fully understand how she was able to give so much to us, or why she did it. But as I grow as a Mom, I start to see that I would do the exact same thing she did because the love you feel for your kids makes you do things you never thought were possible.

My Mom is the best person I have in my life. I love her for what she did for me, for Isabella and my family. She is the true definition of a Mother. I can only hope to be half the woman she is one day.

-Isabella’s mommy

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Why I Go Red…

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Why I go red…

Every single time we had to tell her, I dreaded it. I found that whenever we received the news of a relapse, it was the first place my mind went. We would walk through the plan of new chemo drugs she would start and when. I would try to pay attention as best I could but I was always waiting for a break in the conversation when they would say, “Do you have any questions?”

Will she lose her hair?

Inevitably, she would always end up losing it. It was the worst part of it for her in the end. I remember when her hair started to fall out initially…she was only 2 ½ years old. We took clippers to it in the bathroom and she seemed kind of excited about the change. The lack of hair transformed her to another child. Now she was a sick child and now everywhere we went, people would stop and stare at her. Shaving her head was never a good experience for her after that.

The first time was the easiest, but each time after that was hard. We would try to sit and talk with her about what is going on but I knew that she too was waiting for that break in the conversation so she could ask us.

Will I lose my hair?

When we had longer periods of remission it would grow back. She could occasionally get a little bow in it or rock a headband without people looking twice at her. I found it funny when people would tell me they loved my little girl’s pixie haircut. Little did they know that the pixie haircut took about a year to get. One February it finally reached a length she had been waiting for; Grandma could curl it. It looked ridiculous really, but she was over the moon about having anything that could be styled like a princess. Of course, just a month later the cancer returned all through her body and she would lose it again.

When we were told of that relapse it was her birthday. We had just had a big swimming party for her and she was finally living a normal life. A call in the car from her New York oncologist that asked me point blank, “Is she still able to walk?” I was stunned by this question because just yesterday she was swimming like a fish in the pool. But when someone asks you that question, you know the news coming after it isn’t good. It wasn’t good at all. The cancer was all through her body once again. Just another time that Isabella was probably living a life with intense pain but continued to live with it instead of complaining.

It was after that relapse that we decided; if she is going to lose her hair, she can do whatever she wants with it until the last hair falls out.

“I want to have red hair like Ariel.” So that’s just what we did.

For some reason it always made the news of her hair falling out easier to hear for her. I could tell she was upset, but after the news set in she remembered our deal. Off we would go to the salon and transform her once again. She would sit in the chair beaming from ear to ear. I feel like everyone around was breaking down about the sadness of it all, but not Isabella. It was hard for me to be sad for her in these moments because she was so happy.

I think most people now think of her with her red hair. For the last three years of her life she was either bald, working a 5 o’clock shadow or Ronald McDonald red. Most of the pictures we have of her when she was at her happiest is with red hair. It’s how I picture her in my mind too.

So each September for the race, I come in and go red in her honor. I sit in the chair and squirm a little because it makes me go outside my comfort zone a bit, but in the end it’s just a silly thing I do because I know she would love it. Sometimes we would go red together and walk out of the salon hand in hand like twins. Now it’s just me – going red alone…but I know somewhere she is loving it because she knows I’m doing it for her.

-Isabella’s mommy

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