Cancer Families Step Up to Fundraise for ISF Virtual 5K Event

Since we couldn’t host our event in person, peer-to-peer fundraising is criticle. These cancer families fundraised in honor of their little cancer fighters.

March Executive Director Dish

Executive Director Update, March 2019, Written by Erin Santos

It got a little emotional. This girl is incredible!

What a month we have had since my last Executive Update.  It honestly seems like such a blur because for me personally, I haven’t been this busy in a long time.  It was one of those months where I feel like I might have taken on too much.  As usual, my team surrounds me during these times and always steps up to handle what falls off my plate.  

For me, the biggest task I had this month was the Charlotte Ballet’s Dancing the Stars event.  It was a stressful journey for me because I found myself going back and forth over what was stressing me out more.  While I knew this event was going to bring great awareness to ISF, it was difficult for me to fundraise.  The competitive nature of who I am just couldn’t shake it but my team kept assuring me where I fell in the fundraising was not the most important reason why I was doing this. Bringing awareness to the foundation and what we are doing for kids fighting cancer was the primary reason.  In the end, I raised just over $86,000 and approximately $35,000 will come back to our organization, which we are very grateful for.  I know many of our supporters were hesitant to donate because you would have preferred for 100% of your donation to come to ISF.  We get that.  And for those of you who wanted to support and have your entire donation go to us, I would love for you to donate to Isabella’s Wish Fundraiser to help us reach our $6,000 fundraising goal to gift to Make-A-Wish for a wish trip.  Did you see my latest blog about spending time with Sydney, the wish child we helped fund last year? Incredibly surreal.

My Spirit Animal (also my dance partner)

The dancing also became stressful.  My body just wasn’t doing the things I needed it to do and I felt like I was constantly in pain.  This got old and I found myself being grumpy often.  No matter how much Advil and Epson salt baths I would take, the next day of dancing would just send me back into soreness.  I’m not quite sure how these dancers do this every day.  It was eye-opening for sure.  

The night of the event couldn’t come soon enough.  I was styled by the one and only Whitely Hamlin (The Queen City Style) and Neiman Marcus provided me with the most gorgeous dress I have ever worn.  Having my group of supporters with me that night helped shake off the jitters and I felt so loved by them all.  My dancer partner Juwan was a professional as always and made me feel like I could accomplish anything.  Even though I made quite a few mistakes, we ended up taking home the Judges Choice award for best dance and the night was finally behind me.  

Overall amazing experience… but definitely happy to have it behind me.  

While I was running around training with DWTS, the team was moving all the other pieces of the Foundation along.  We completed an amazing campaign for our Cancer Messed With product with the help of many wonderful people in the community.  We hope you enjoyed seeing all of the “Cancer Messed with the Wrong City” shirts as we spread love to cancer patients everywhere with our #cancermessedwith social posts.  Thanks to our continued Angel investor, we are starting to double down on CMW and you will see lots of exciting changes with the product coming in the next quarter.  If you don’t follow CMW on Instagram, be sure to so you can watch everything come together.

Karen Murphy

Our head of Corporate Sponsorships has been KILLING it this last month.  Karen Murphy continues to blow me away each month as she does a great job communicating with our sponsors about what we are doing at ISF.  Of course, our largest partners continue to see the importance of what we are doing here in the community and come back year over year.  Brighthouse Financial, Community Blood Center of the Carolinas, Modern Nissan of Lake Norman, Scoop Charlotte, Atrium Health, Mass Mutual Carolinas and Noda Brewing Company have once again aligned with us as sustaining partners and we appreciate all they do for us.  Karen is meeting with people every day and we love seeing new companies as well as continued partnerships signing up to be a part of our mission.  We still have a couple of sustaining sponsorships available so contact Karen if you are interested.

Kerry Winslow

Speaking of Corporations, Kerry Winslow our Director of Corporate Philanthropy has been plugging away at our first ever Networking Event scheduled for this month at the City Club in Uptown Charlotte.  As we try to expand our reach into the Uptown area, we feel that it is critical to get our mission out to these companies.  Gene Woods from Atrium Health with be joining us for a meet and mingle to learn a little more about who we are and what we are doing for the city of Charlotte.  Educating the community on our impact is one way we hope to make a difference and Kerry is leading the charge in this effort.

Tia Wackerhagen

Our Three Wish Circle and Ambassador team is gearing up for another year of supporting ISF is a big way.  Our 3 wish members are such great advocates for us in the community because they really get what we are trying to do here.  Tia Wackerhagen, our Development Director is already in communication with these families to fine tune our giving society and hope to bring more members into this exclusive group of donors.  Our Ambassadors wrapped up a fundraising season that blew us away and we are hoping to bring them back this year as well as grow the team to continue to make a difference for the families receiving MIBG treatment.

Rachel Wood

Marketing.  Good lord is this a full plate.  Not only is our Director of Marketing, Rachel Wood, managing the day to day ISF marketing and social communication but redesigning the look and feel of ISF as well as our website.  We want to be able to provide the most up to date information on what we are doing in the community and the patients we are supporting and this job is never-ending.  Rachel was the brains behind the CMW campaign in February, organizing a meet up with our Make-A-Wish recipient Sydney, all of the Jersey Mike’s Month of Giving marketing and more.  Her to-do list every day gives me anxiety so I hope you are enjoying the content she provides!  It’s a ton!

Maitland Danner

And Maitland Danner. What would our foundation do without Maitland.  She is the jack of all trades.  The glue that holds it all together.  The voice of reason. The planner and everything in between that I didn’t mention.  She has her hands in every single detail of ISF and we could not run without her.

Our upcoming month is one of the biggest of the year at ISF.  We have so much happened that it’s hard to wrap our head around it.  Isabella’s 14th birthday is this Saturday, which is unreal to me.  Our partnership at the Community Blood Center of the Carolinas is the ONLY way for me to get through the day.  This is the BIGGEST blood drive we have ever had and we already have over 200 appointments.  We are hoping to creep up to 500 by Saturday and need all the help we can get.  We also hope to raise enough money to grant a wish in Isabella’s honor so help us if you can.

March is also Jersey Mike’s Month of Giving.  You know the event and why wouldn’t you support a business that directly impacts the Charlotte community?  And all you have to do is eat subs!  Throughout the entire month of March eat at 39 greater Charlotte Jersey Mike’s Subs, use the weekly coupons here, you can make an in-store donation and buy a cookie. 100% of cookie sales go back to the foundation all month long. What you save through the coupon, give back at the register! Easy!  The big day is March 27th, ‘Day of Giving’,  where 100% of sales go back to the Isabella Santos Foundation at participating stores in the Greater Charlotte area.  Last year we received $135,000… unreal! We absolutely love our Jersey Mikes partnership.

I’m want to take a minute to thank our amazing Board of Directors here at ISF.  This group has almost a full year under their belts and these people have been a godsend to the organization.  We are growing our board and our current members have opened doors for us that we never thought were possible.  The commitment these people have to our mission is unbelievable and we are so excited to expand our board next month by doubling our board seats.  It makes me excited to see our year ahead.  So thank you to the ISF board for taking us to the next level yet again.

Okay, so ways you can help this month….

  1. Schedule a Blood Donation Appointment for Saturday
  2. Donate to Help Fund a Wish in honor of Isabella’s Birthday
  3. Eat Jersey Mike’s Subs this month like it’s your job
  4. Eat at Melting Pot for their March Fondue Raiser
  5. Become a Sponsor
  6. Follow CMW on Social Media
  7. Purchase a CMW Shirt to Support Someone You Know
  8. Follow, Like, Share & Comment on our ISF Social Posts:  ISF Facebook, ISF Instagram, ISF LinkedIn
  9. Become an Ambassador for ISF
  10. Reach out to us!  Have an idea, what to get involved?

March is big.  Be a part of it.  Don’t just watch from the sidelines – get involved with us.  

Erin’s Journey to Dancing With the Stars: Why did I sign up for this again?

Written by Erin Santos, ISF Executive Director & President

No turning back now!

I’m two weeks into my rehearsal for the Charlotte Ballet’s Dancing with the Stars… let’s just say I needed week 2.  The first week was a little scary.  I had an idea of what I wanted to do.  I knew the idea was a little out there and maybe didn’t fall in line with what most of the dancers were doing, but that is kind of who I was.  I figure if I didn’t do something that was totally me – it wasn’t worth doing.  I just couldn’t go out there and do some ballroom dance to some cancer song because it was relevant to Isabella.  This dance was going to be different.  So I worked on a playlist – sent it over and crossed my fingers.  

Juwan and I had met twice already.  Once in a coffee shop where it felt like a blind date where we talked about our background, our hopes and dreams and touched on some personal stories.   I could have birthed him, he’s so young – but I try to get past this.  I figure, let me invite him to my holiday party in December so we can get to know each other in a social setting to shake off the nerves.  He arrived with his boyfriend, Mason, after a Nutcracker performance.  Luckily I was a couple of drinks in so I ran to him and hugged him like an old high school bestie.  Honestly, the night became a little of a blur but I definitely know our eyes connected that night when the music turned up and we really saw what we were dealing with.  My main goal that night was just to prove that I’m not some old, suburban housewife who can barely get out of bed after losing her daughter.  I think all those ideas were lit on fire that night.


This guy is crazy fun & super positive!

The first day of practice really just involved us sitting on the dance floor and listening to my playlists.  10 songs was a bit much so let’s narrow it down and figure out what was a MUST and what part of the song was a MUST.  Once we got up and got loose, he wanted to run through just a few moves to see if I was teachable and if I had any rhythm.  Teachable… yes.  Rhythm… depends on the night.  I was stiff and felt like a sober mom.  But, I must have impressed him enough because he said, “Ok, I can work with this”.  Yikes.


Here we go.  Damn am I stiff.  I decide not to stretch out because who stretches before they go to the club?  One trick in and one slide on the floor and I find myself with a pulled groin, pulled quad muscles and skin missing off my ankles.  Apparently, this is real exercise and there is a way to dress for sliding around on a wooden dance floor.  Noted.  I tried not to complain because it was Day 1 but I left feeling a little discouraged.  I felt like I could dance (a little) and I thought I was definitely in better shape than to pull every muscle in my body.  Homework: buy long sweatpants.  If you know me, you know I do not own this kind of clothing.  But Lululemon pants weren’t giving my skin the protection it required to crawl around like I needed to.  Hoping to find “cute” sweatpants somewhere.  Also, I express to Juwan that I’m getting KILLED in the fundraising.  He assures me it’s early but it doesn’t stop the embarrassment in my stomach with being in last place on the leader board.  


I have never owned a pair of sweatpants!

This guy is my spirit animal!

I’m in these freaking sweatpants.  I have on no makeup and a hat on.  I look like shit.  Juwan comes in and puts on these 6-inch heels that he got at goodwill, which makes my 6-foot tall partner closer to 6’6.  We walk through what we did last week and I’m just as bad.  I now have a part in the dance that I call my “Dirty Dancing Move”.  You know the jump and lift that she is supposed to do but wusses out?  Yeah, the slide that took the skin off my ankle is stressing me.  We try to do it and I land directly on my knee.  By the way, this bad knee land will produce a bruise the size of a small orange on me.  Not to mention random bruises that are showing up on the other leg.  (This one may or not of been acquired at the Justin Timberlake concert two nights ago.)  I ask for us to put last week’s stuff in the file and move on.  Our next bit comes a little easier for me.  It’s a little more manageable but I’m still stiff.  I’m actually not sure if I’m stiff or it’s that my partner moves like a damn snake across the floor.  It would be easier if he weren’t so good.  I determine that I’m not going to let his moves shake me and I must start dressing the part.  I’m in sneakers, he’s in heels.  That move is over.


Heels! Ah, I love them!

Heels.  This already makes me happy.  I whip them on and instantly feel like a sexpot.  I’m still in sweats but I style the Under Armor pants in a way that is hip and not so… I’m running in to pick up butter and a six-pack from Wal-Mart.  I’m on a work high so I’m a little giddy but start off by throwing myself under the bus.  I’m not practicing.  But, by saying it out loud I agree to change my ways and will seriously put some time in outside the studio.  This is starting to mean something to me and my competitiveness is showing.  New song.  Juwan is making choreography up on the fly and I love watching his process.  He does some moves, then does some fast clapping and says, “Oh my god yes.”  He starts the count.  Today I’m feeling it and the stiffness is fading.  I think an upcoming night out with Juwan plus drinks will help this continue to fade – but he has given up drinking this month.  Whatever.  Quitting is for losers.  He will be back on it soon and when he is ready – I’ll be there to catch him… with a bottle of Titos.  We are rushed but I still have it.  I leave the studio and obsess over the music.  My playlist is annoying my kids but I am assuring them it is their musical education.  One day they will thank me for it.  WTF with this fundraising number?  How are some of these cats doing so well at this?  I tell myself it’s because I fundraise for a living so people are tired of my ask.  But I’m in dead dead dead last.  Wishing someone would swoop in and drop funds on the last place girl.  I mean I’m working my ass off out here and I have the bruises to show it.


My partner!

Like most things in life, one good day usually leads to a not so good day.  Today was one of those days where I was running late (shocker!) and was frazzled upon arrival.  I was still on my dancing high from yesterday but that quickly ended.  Why did I pick songs that are so damn fast?  My body just doesn’t move this fast!  Juwan asked if I wanted him to slow the tempo down, to which he answered as soon as it came out of his mouth to “Nope”.  The songs and steps are blending in my head and we are just adding more and more to them.  I’m honestly looking forward to having the next two days off because I need to gather my thoughts on these dances.  I need to watch the videos, write down the moves and study them like a test.  Just remembering the moves isn’t enough because they have to be sharp and cool on the beat.  Write them down, test myself, and walk through them slowly, put them to music.  Luckily I got a facial this week so my entire face is peeling off.  Sounds like a great weekend to stay indoors and then show up Sunday to impress Juwan with my progress.  I also pulled my groin again.  Welcome to 41.

To add on top of this all, I thought it would be a great idea to add signing up for the Transformation Challenge at Orange Theory.  3-4 classes a week plus dancing on top of that.  I had the weigh-in and measurements done today.  Figure if I’m going to go for it over the next 6 weeks, let’s turn this old bag of bones into something I can be proud of.  Remind me of this when I start breaking down in a few weeks.  

ISF has 20 tickets held for my guests so it’s not too late to purchase them until January 30th.  I would love to have a big group in the audience to help calm my nerves.  Yes, I know the ticket price is a little heavy but word on the street is this is one of the BEST events in Charlotte.  Can’t attend the event?   Go online and vote for me!  I need some people out there who are pushing us out to their networks, business and individuals.  We need all the help we can get!  Go to to buy tickets and to vote.  And when you get out there and see some of these people killing us on fundraising, you will want to help.  

ISF MIBG Ambassador: Tim McBride

We are excited to announce our very first committed ISF MIBG Ambassador, Tim McBride. The ISF MIBG Ambassador is a new program we have rolled out where each ambassador commits to raising $5,000 through his/her own network. We couldn’t think of the most perfect person to help us kick this program off. Tim fundraises 365 days a year for a variety of foundations and types of cancers, all while leveraging what he knows and loves best: running, bringing joy to kids at Christmas as Santa McBeast, and making whatever impact he can in ALL that he does.

Tim just retired. So we have to make sure he stays busy! And we love that he doesn’t take no for an answer as he fights to crush cancer every single day.

Funds raised through this program will be distributed very specifically through our partnership with Levine Children’s Hospital with a very targeted purpose. So get creative and fundraise the way you want to.

We hope you will join us at our MIBG Ambassador KICK OFF meeting on May 22 at 6:30 at the Santos Home.  Drinks and light appetizers will be available.  Please R.S.V.P. by Sunday, May 20th.  If you cannot attend and would like information, please contact for details.
You do not have to be in Charlotte to participate!  Email Tia for more information.
Date: Tuesday, May 22
Time:  6:30 pm
Location:  Santos Home