ISF 2017 $1 Million Goal Hit!

$1,000,000 was our 2017 fundraising goal. $1,025,467 was raised! We are beside ourselves with excitement and extremely grateful for your support. Thank you to our volunteers and employees that work tirelessly towards our foundation mission.

We set a very specific objective behind our 2017 goal… bringing a MIBG room to Levine Children’s Hospital. This new-state-of-the-art MIBG room will help families with kids facing cancer.  Charlotte will be one out of 20 hospitals in the country that will be able to offer this to patients. We are excited to see ground break in March in honor of Isabella’s birthday and look forward to sharing more specific developments as this new pediatric cancer treatment room and program developments.

ISF helped  fund the Frontline MIBG Therapy project trial through the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) last year. This trial hopes to reduce the number of children who relapse and reduce the burden of late effects of therapy. It will be ready for children across the country in late 2018 where an MIBG room is available.  It is very exciting that Levine Children’s Hospital will be able to offer this advanced therapy.

WHAT IS MIBG? A cutting edge, targeted therapy used to treat relapsed or high-risk neuroblastoma with little to no pain and side effects. This treatment requires a highly specialized team to deliver the therapy and a special room to assure that patients, family, and health care providers are safe.

WHY IS BUILDING A ROOM SO EXPENSIVE? The room is specifically designed for this type of therapy and is created with lead shielding due to the radioactive nature of the treatment. These lead walls provide the highest level of protection for patients and families. The MIBG room will have an adjoining suite so the patient will always be close to their family.

New Year, New Look, New Life

Written by Erin Santos, Isabella’s Mommy

January 1st, 2018 just seems unreal.  What seems more unreal is 10 years of ISF behind us.  We started out that first year when Isabella was diagnosed and raised $7,000.  Our 2017 books are closing and we hit the goal we had in place of 1 million dollars raised.  Unbelievable.  It makes me wonder where this little “project” of ours is going to go.  With an even bigger goal in 2018, as well as a new treatment room in construction, in her name, opening its doors later this year, I know there is so much more ahead of us to accomplish.

With growth, comes change… some good and some bad.  Isabella will always be the true Founder of this organization and her face will forever be tied to all we are doing.  However, as a growing foundation, we have realized that giving in her honor the last couple of years has propelled us to success we never would have imagined.  But now, we want to refocus our organization on the children we are trying to save today.  I have always said there is an Isabella in every city.  And as we expand into new cities and markets, it is becoming painfully obvious that there are children everywhere who are in the fight of their lives.  We want to start introducing you to these children, their families and their stories.  They need your help to fight this disease that still has a survivor rate that would break any parent’s heart.  We also want to start educating our supporters on other rare cancers that can benefit from the treatments we are funding.  Neuroblastoma is scary, but there are other cancers out there with ineffective treatments and without organizations like ours in their corner, kids have very little chance for a cure.  Every child’s life is worth saving and we want to spread our wings a little more with your help.

I’m excited about the upcoming changes in our focus because even I need to put my memories of Isabella in a safe place.  For years I told myself that we were different.  We could handle loss and turn this horrible tragedy into something that could potentially change the lives of others.  While we are doing this, unfortunately, it came at a price.  Death changes people and we are not exempt from this.

I always look back at the person I was before cancer, during cancer, and even during her death.  I’ve referred to it as a movie I watch because that person seems unrecognizable to me now.  Her death has made me independent and strong, focused and determined.  But it has also made me closed off and cold at times.  I can be a hard person to get to know because her death has built a fortress around me.  I find solace in being alone, my anxiety can take me over completely and I find at times that I want to run from everything.  While losing a child makes you realize how important every minute is with your other children, sometimes it comes at a price to others in your life.

I don’t know why we hurt the ones we love the most.  We just do.  And sometimes we can’t stop doing it.  Death changed me a lot, and it changed Stuart too.  The person you once went to battle with becomes the new battle.  You find yourself just trying to get through the day and the other person becomes the casualty of this.   One thing remained consistent through our grief, our love for her, our kids and all that ISF is accomplishing.  But, I think we have just hit a time in our life when we want to find happiness again, and sometimes that happiness isn’t together.

While I feel like this is a very personal subject, I have never shied away from my life being an open book.  I felt like it was important to let the supporters of ISF know that nothing is changing with ISF.  Even though Stuart and I are no longer together, we still stand together and will do everything we can to continue to grow the foundation and make a difference in her name.  I love when we are together at an event and people say to me, “You would never know about the changes behind the scenes in your family.  You guys seem stronger than ever.”   Maybe because the love that kept her alive for so long will always be there for each other because we know the other one has been to hell and back.  There is too much history to be any other way.  So that is all you will see.  We will always be together for her.

We hope these changes will not impact the support for all we are doing together.  My belief is this is just a new start to a big year ahead and we are so proud of what we have accomplished.  This is just the beginning… maybe just a new beginning.


There are so many things we HOPE for.  This poem (author unknown) sums up all our HOPES and the reasons we continue to fight pediatric cancer.  We posted this poem earlier in the year and not only did it become our most popular post of 2017, but of all time.  As we wrap up our 10th year of the foundation, we thank you for fighting with us, for supporting us, for crying with us, for believing in us…. and most of all for helping us continue to keep Isabella’s legacy alive as we fight childhood cancer.  It started with a girl… and she is changing the world!

We hope you and your family have a wonderful (and safe) New Years Eve and look forward to conquering our HOPES together in 2018.

Isabella after brain surgery


I hope you never have to hear the words, ‘Your child has cancer.’

I hope you never have to hear, ‘The prognosis is not good.’

I hope you never have to prepare your child to undergo radiation or chem

otherapy, have a port surgically inserted into their chest, be connected to IV poles.

I hope you never have your child look at you with fear in their eyes and say, ‘Don’t worry Mommy, everything will be okay.’

I hope you never have to hold your child as they vomit green bile.

I hope you never have to feed them ice chips for lunch.

I hope you never have to watch the ‘cure’ you pray for slowly take away their identity, as they

lose their hair,

become skeletal,

swell up from steroids,

develop severe acne,

become barely or unable to walk or move,

and look at you with hope in their eyes and say,

‘It’s going to be okay, Mommy.’

I hope that you never have to stay in the hospital for weeks, months, or years at a time, where there is no privacy, sleeping on a slab, with your face to the wall, where you cry in muffled silence.

I hope you never have to see a mother, alone, huddled, in a dark hospital corridor…crying quietly, after just being told, ‘There is nothing more we can do.’

I hope you never have to watch a family wander aimlessly, minutes after their child’s body has been removed.

I hope you never have to use every bit of energy you have left, with all of this going on around you to remain positive, and the feelings of guilt, sorrow, hope and fear, overwhelm you.

I hope you never have to see a child’s head bolted to the table as they receive radiation.

I hope you never have to take your child home (grateful but so afraid) in a wheelchair because the chemo and radiation has damaged their muscles, 35 pounds lighter, pale, bald, and scarred.

And they look at you with faith in their eyes and say, ‘It’s going to be okay Mommy.’

I hope you never have to face the few friends that have stuck beside you and hear them say, ‘Thank God that is over with,’…because you know it never will be.

Your life becomes a whirl of doctors, blood tests and MRI’s and you try to get your life back to ‘normal’.

While living in mind-numbing fear that any one of those tests could result in hearing the dreaded words…

‘The cancer has returned’ or ‘The tumor is growing.’

And your friends become even fewer.

I hope you never have to experience any of these things…Because…only then…

Will you understand…

(author unknown)

Brighthouse Financial Supporting Charlotte Charity With Childhood Cancer Mission

Thank you to Brighthouse Financial for being an incredible partner to our foundation and continuing your Presenting Sponsorship status or our 10th Annual 5k/10k and 1 mile fun run for Kids Cancer for the second year!  We have been so thankful for the commitment and dedication this company has given to supporting the Isabella Santos Foundation and helping us make a difference for kids fighting cancer.  We simply could not do what we do without the community support behind our foundation.

“In January 2016, MetLife announced plans to pursue the separation of a substantial portion of its U.S Retail segment through a public offering of shares, a spin-off, or a sale.  The separation would allow MetLife to focus on businesses that have lower capital requirements and greater cash generation potential.  As an independent company, U.S Retail would benefit from greater focus, more flexibility in products and operations, and a reduced capital and compliance burden.

MetLife employees, 2016 ISF Race

This past June, the new company, named Brighthouse Financial, received regulatory and board of director approval to disaffiliate through a spin-off on August 4, and began trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market on August 7.

Brighthouse Financial is on a mission to help people achieve financial security.  Our world is changing every day; a company pension is the exception, not the rule, and reaching your 90th birthday isn’t unusual.  In these uncertain times, preparing for your retirement has never been so important.  We specialize in annuities and life insurance; two essential products that help protect what you’ve earned and ensure it lasts.  They work in tandem with the rest of your portfolio.

MeLife and Brighthouse Financial have a longstanding partnership with the Isabella Santos Foundation (ISF).  We have participated in the Isabella Santos Foundation Race each year since we moved to Charlotte in 2013, and 2017 marks our second year as Presenting Sponsor.  We also hosted an internship consulting project with ISF in the summer of 2016 and are excited to have raised over $50,000 for ISF through our Annual Community Golf Classic which benefited ISF in 2015 and 2017.”  – Apryl Silva, Real Estate & Community Relations

Ports, bald head and scars…

“This picture that was taken of Isabella always makes me smile. We had just moved back to Charlotte from New York City in the fall after a brain relapse that sent us into a tailspin. The mass on her brain forced emergency surgery, followed by a chemo and radiation regiment that meant moving our whole family for 4 months to the city. If you look closely, you will see the port that was placed just under her skin on top of her head. This port was connected to veins in her central nervous system so a drug called 8H9 could bathe her entire brain and spinal cord with a life saving treatment. (This 8H9 drug developed by Dr. Kim Kramer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has since received national recognition as one of leading new drugs for relapsed neuroblastoma.) In this picture Isabella has yet to receive her first dose of 8H9, but the relapse that once frightened us to our core had 4 months of treatment under its belt and was doing amazingly well. This port would be used in just a couple of months while Isabella was in remission to kill any microscopic cells that may still remain. I was there for a test treatment and was blown away as she calmly sat in her hospital bed while Dr. Kramer inserted a needle into the port and sent fluid through her CNS to ensure the port was working correctly. She looked at me with wide eyes as I sat next to her holding her hand. After 15 minutes of treatment, the needle was removed and she went about playing per usual as if nothing had happened. She would receive 3 of these treatments in the next couple of months but we decided as a family to remove me from the treatment due to possible radiation exposure. My Mom of course stepped in exposed herself, selfless as always. We wanted to have another baby and felt like it was safer for me to be away. I got pregnant that January.
That little port never bothered her as you can tell from this smile. As a parent your eye always caught it, but you knew it was imperative to her survival. The port stayed with her the rest of her life. I always wished they had taken it out, but like her bald head and scars… it just became part of who she was. We took her lead and just became happy to have every day with her – who cared about that port? She sure didn’t.” -Isabella’s Mommy
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