Pediatric Cancer Rages On. So Do We

Like many of you, we have a lot of questions during this challenging time.  As we navigate through this, we keep circling back to one question that we can’t seem to shake. And one that we can’t get past. What happens to the kids who are fighting cancer and fighting for their lives, while life is on hold?

March 24th is finally here and if you would have seen us a few weeks ago, we were buzzing around and beyond excited for this day to arrive to kick off one of our largest fundraising weeks of the year. Although COVID-19 changed our plans, pediatric cancer continues to rage forward and our mission will not waiver.  Now, more than ever we will remain focused on helping bring change to rare pediatric cancer research.

Today our Breakfast at Tiffany’s coffee events, presented by the JEM Project, were set to begin. Two mornings…nearly 600 attendees and our goal was $227,500.

Tomorrow Jersey Mike’s Day of Giving was planned.  One day…42 locations and our goal was $175,000 for the day and $200,000 for the month of March. Ouch. 

That’s an anticipated amount of over $425,000 of our annual goal… by the end of the week. Ouch. 

Just as all of you, we are scared during these uncertain times.  We are scared for all of the cancer families who are fighting to keep their immunocompromised children safe. We are scared for all of the hospitals filled with doctors and nurses, working day in and out.  And although we are scared, we are in this together. We remain hopeful.

Thank those of you who have already donated this month towards our many initiatives before life came to a stop. Over the next several days, we had planned on these events bringing in a significant percentage towards our annual fundraising goal and have been stunned at the turn of events.  If you are able to and feel compelled to donate, we would appreciate your support. Now more than ever. Together we can help kids fighting… beat cancer, grow hair and live their dreams.

💜 Much Love,




VIRTUAL JERSEY MIKE’S LUNCH:  Yes we know, Jersey Mike’s Day of Giving was technically canceled.  But not for ISF! Let’s show our local Jersey Mike’s franchise owners that we still have their back and support by ordering take out!  Invite your co-worker, team or friend and plan on lunch together tomorrow… virtual style! Order for pickup or delivery through the Jersey Mike’s mobile app to make it simple!  We are fortunate that ISF will benefit from all donations made by customers through March 31st… donations can be made through the app or at pickup.

DONATE BLOOD:  If you are healthy and able, drop into your local OneBlood donor center to help replenish the quickly depleting blood supply in your community. Find a donor center near you.

It’s Isabella’s Birthday Month

Isabella Santos, 2005-2012

It’s March, Isabella’s birthday month!  On behalf of a little girl who should have been 15, thank you for supporting her foundation.  Thank you for helping us continue her legacy and make an impact on other kids fighting cancer. It’s March Madness around here, we have something going on all month long to help celebrate our founder.  We hope you will join us in one of the many ways during March. And don’t forget to help us share on our social channels!

Donate & Help us Fund A Wish

It’s our 3rd annual Isabella’s Birthday Wish Fundraiser and we can’t think of a better gift than to honor another child’s wish on what would have been Isabella’s 15th birthday in the month of March. 

We are excited for one of our cancer warriors, as she heads to Disney World to meet Minnie!  Brinn Andrew, 2 ½ years old, is coming to the end of her neuroblastoma treatment plan and continues to thrive. What better way to celebrate than to head to Disney with her family!

If Isabella were here today, we know it would be her wish to pass this experience on to another cancer fighter. Make-A-Wish granted Isabella her wish to go to Disney and gave her the most joyful days of her life. Help us do the same for a kid like Isabella and Brinn.

Donations of all values will allow us to collectively reach our $6,000 fundraising goal and will be gifted to the Make-A-Wish foundation to go towards a child’s wish. Donate

Schedule Blood Donation Appointment With ONEBLOOD, MARCH 7-9

This is our annual gift of life that we are so proud to be a part of. This year, our blood drive will run three days and in multiple locations, making this our biggest one to date!  As a thank you, OneBlood will make a $10 donation to ISF for each confirmed blood donor! It’s a win-win… saving local lives and raising funds for pediatric cancer! Check locations, times and appointments and make your appointment.

Eat Jersey Mike’s Subs All Month Long

March is the 10th annual Jersey Mike’s Subs Month of Giving. Make sure you mark your calendars for Wednesday, March 25th for Day of Giving when 100% of sales are donated to ISF and pediatric cancer. Schedule lunch with a friend, pre-order lunch for your office… every sub counts!  Since 2018 the greater Charlotte area Jersey Mike’s Subs have donated over $300,000 to ISF! Details, March coupons & 43 greater Charlotte area participating locations.

Create a Facebook Fundraiser

You can help celebrate Isabella by setting up a Facebook fundraiser in her honor.  Have a birthday this month? Set up a fundraiser. Or simply set one up in honor of Isabella’s birthday!  Set up Facebook Fundraiser.

Order Sweet’s Elderberry Syrup During Sweetgiving, March 1-7

Sweet’s Syrup’s  annual outreach in celebration of their company’s birthday is the first week of March.  During this week, March 1- 7, 20% of Sweet’s Syrup sales will be donated to ISF. Visit Sweet’s online store and purchase their elderberry syrup.


50% of Botox & Dysport in store and onlines sales go back to ISF during the week of March 30 – April 4. Online pre-purchase opportunity starts March 25, keep an eye out on our social channels for details!

Purchase Checkers Hockey Tickets, APRIL 5

Join us at Bojangles’ Coliseum as the Checkers take on the Hershey Bears on Sunday, April 5th. Tickets are just $16, with $5 from every ticket purchased going directly back to ISF! A fun family afternoon.  Purchase tickets.

Simply Donate

$7,500 Granted to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for DIPG Research

Family time and making memories is what the Barron family, whose daughter has DIPG, cherishes the most.  Thank you to Small Hands Big Art for inviting 4-year old DIPG warrior, Mackenzie, and her family in 2019 to their children’s art studio to create beautiful keepsake items.  A fun and family filled afternoon lead to several priceless art pieces for the family to hold close to their hearts forever.  We were fortunate enough to snag extra custom pieces of art to auction off at our 2019 Pumpkin Charity Ball at the end of October! 

$7,500 was raised during our live auction from the two beautiful pieces of art the Barron girls created!  Right before 2019 closed out we were excited to grant this $7,500 to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Hematology And Oncology Unit for DIPG research.  Mackenzie is currently participating in a DIPG trial at Cincinnati Children’s and this grant was made in her honor!

More about these paintings:  Mackenzie’s painting was inspired by rainbow arches and the girls selected a variety of joyful colors to paint with.  Mackenzie’s favorite spot on the paint was a section of pink and white rainbow arches towards one of the longer edges that is reminiscent of a flower.  This piece was created with Acrylic Paint.

Read more on DIPG warrior, Mackenzie, and her family.

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.  

Isabella Santos Foundation’s Executive Director Receives Women in Business Honor

“Don’t let something horrible in your life define you. When people meet me they say, I can’t believe you have a child who passed away from cancer, and I take pride in that. Because it doesn’t define who I am. It’s just part of who I am.”

Congratulations to our always real and never boring leader, Erin Santos, for being a recipient of the Charlotte Business Journal’s Women in Business award last night. She might have cussed a bit on stage and she rarely apologizes for ‘being aggressive’ for those fighting cancer… but we are so proud that she won’t stop pushing the needle for kids fighting cancer.