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Big Accomplishments for this Little Cancer Warrior

Over the past year, Madison was in the deep throes of battling osteosarcoma, a rare pediatric bone cancer.  In that same year, Madison, now age 6, learned to walk again, completed kindergarten, stole the heart of Duff Goldman from Kids Baking Championship and most importantly, beat cancer. 

That’s a big list of accomplishments for one little girl.

In 2018, over the course of 3 short days, Madison’s life swiftly changed. It all started with pain in her right leg and completely lost the ability to walk a few days later.  After immediately heading in for X-rays after what thought was a possible broken bone, a soft spot was found on her right femur. Immediately taken to Levine Children’s Hospital, Madison was later diagnosed with osteosarcoma in April of 2018 at five years old.  This type of cancer is extremely rare and almost unheard of in kids her age The solid tumor discovered took up to about three-fourths of Madison’s adolescent bone.

After several rounds of chemotherapy to shrink the tumor on her femur, she had surgery to remove her right femur and replace it with one from a cadaver. Fortunately, the medical team was able to remove most of the tumor and save both of Madison’s growth plates.

In February 2019, she finished treatment at Levine Children’s and has since had very positive scans showing no cancer! At about the same time of finishing treatment, Madison learned her Wish trip would be granted by Make-A-Wish Central & Western North Carolina Chapter.

Madison and her family just got back from her Make-A-Wish trip to Los Angeles.  She didn’t ask to meet Taylor Swift or go to Disney World. She wished to meet Duff Goldman, a silly and bald baker. And what happened? They became best friends of course! 

“Duff Goldman by far is the most genuine person alive. Duff and Madison hit it off immediately and she didn’t ever want to leave. One of the sweetest moments was when they got in a mini food fight. Duff covered her chef jacket with chocolate and jam, said you can’t trust a chef with a clean jacket. Madison never wants to wash it!” 

Madison and her family enjoyed baking time with Duff, exploring Universal Studios, riding in limos and exploring some of California’s yummy eats. “To think where we were a year ago. The whole trip was surreal. We made some pretty awesome memories that we will never forget, none of us will ever be the same.”

And that’s what Make-A-Wish does, they create life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses. The positive impact wishes give to kids and their families are invaluable.

For the second year, the Isabella Santos Foundation ran an online March fundraiser in honor of what would have been Isabella’s birthday month, that fundraiser directly impacted Madison’s wish trip.  Make-A-Wish granted Isabella her wish and gave her the best days of her life as well as giving her family the best memories of theirs. Honoring Isabella’s birthday by providing the same for another cancer fighter is exactly what she would love!  

Thank you for supporting the Isabella Santos Foundation, we can’t express enough how much your support inspires us to do more for these cancer warriors and their families. You helped make a little girl’s dream come true and it will be something that will stay with her forever. 

Photos of Madison’s Wish Trip:

Surprise, it’s Christmas in July!

Ho ho ho! Surprise… it’s Christmas in July! Our ISF elves have been busy picking out the best toys for some extra special boys and girls. Today was the big day! Santa ditched his summer surfboard and broke out his sleigh to travel all the way to Levine Children’s Hospital with a special stop at the oncology floor and clinic. Thank you to all of Santa’s ISF elves and supporters who make magical days like today possible.

Huge thanks to Toys and Co. for helping our elves with the toys!

A Baking Wish Trip of a Lifetime

Madison is headed to L.A. to bake with Duff Goldman of Kids Baking Championship and you helped make that happen!  Remember Isabella’s Birthday Wish Fundraiser in March? Well, we love when things come around full circle.  The timing was just right when we gifted $6,000 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation to go towards a child’s wish… Madison’s wish!  

Isabella and Madison have so many similarities and baking is one of them!  To be able to use Isabella’s birthday fundraiser to help send Madison off on this baking wish trip is crazy!  It gives us goosebumps!  6 1/2 years ago Isabella was given the opportunity to bake cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery while in New York City for scans.  On this day her parents learned that Isabella’s cancer had spread to her brain.  Although her story did not have a happy ending, we work passionately every day to help other kids fighting cancer live out the happy endings they deserve.  And we appreciate you helping us do that in Isabella’s name.  

This morning we were able to attend Madison’s Wish Party at CPCC’s Culinary Arts Center.  Talk about kicking the week off right! We had the best time watching Madison and her sister, Riley, create pastries and pinwheels.  We visited with her family, the Make-A-Wish team and enjoyed watching her Wish Grantors, Peanut Butter & Shelly, smile among them.  Madison and her family head off to L.A. in 2 weeks and we can’t wait to share details and photos from their trip!  It’s beyond cool to be able to share the stories and show you the impact of your donations!

Madison was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in April of 2018 at five years old. She finished treatment at Levine Children’s in February 2019 and has since had very positive scans showing no cancer!  This brave girl has come such a long way in a very short period of time and is currently working hard to be off her walker and use her leg.  She has so much to look forward to! Read Madison’s Full Story

Isabella Santos Foundation Board of Directors Visits Levine Children’s Hospital

In June our ISF Board of Directors held their monthly meeting at Levine Children’s. Before we got down to business we headed upstairs to the Isabella Santos Foundation MIBG Therapy Suite on the 11th floor. We get chills every time we step foot in it. And last night we saw our board members feel the same chills. It’s real, to be able to see and touch the impact your dollars have on kids with cancer is immeasurable. 

There is so much more to be done and we couldn’t have a better team standing behind us. Each individual brings amazing talent and experience in serving our organization and impacting our local pediatric cancer community. Their dedication personally and through their respective companies is one of the reasons why Charlotte is the best city with the most giving community.

ISF Board of Directors:

– Neil Aldridge, Global Channel Partnerships, Gold Group Enterprises
– Meredith Dean, Seacrest Studios Program Coordinator at Levine Children’s Hospital & Founder at the Dean’s List
– Matt DuBois, Owner, Centurion Entertainment
– Suzie Ford, Owner, NoDa Brewing Company
– Eric Frick, Attorney, Parker Poe (Joining the board in July, 2019)
– Charlotte Guice, Owner, Charlotte Guice Designs, LLC.
– Jay Levell, Partner, White Point Partners
-Jacob Lewison, Marketing Manager, QCarolina Restaurants, LLC
– Jonathan McFadden, Content Strategist/CopyWriter, Lending Tree
– Tim Miner, Co-Founder, Charlotte is Creative, Co-Host Creative Mornings
– Barbara Morgan, Owner, Brixx Pizza
– Jennifer Pope, Pediatric Hematology and Oncology MD, Levine Children’s Hospital
– Blair Primis, Senior Vice President, Marketing & Talent Management, OrthoCarolina
– Karen Suddreth, Human Resources Administrator, Culp Elliott & Carpenter, PLLC
– Sandra Szoke, Partner, Impact Marketing Partners
– Jacob Virgil, Senior Associate & SEO Lead, Red Ventures.
– Matt Yarmey, Owner, Pure Intentions Coffee.

2019 Isabella Santos Foundation Scholarship Recipient

We are beyond thrilled to announce our this year’s Isabella Santos Scholarship Recipient, John Ford. John  was one of many who submitted an application for a $1,000 community service scholarship. John is graduating from Marvin Ridge High School next Monday and will be attending University of Georgia in the fall. John is on the youth board for Kids v. Cancer and has participated in lobby days, Curefest and Light the Night on behalf of Kids v. Cancer.  Please help us in congratulating John on this outstanding award and his entry to UGA.

By John Ford

My life is rich with volunteer experiences and I am not talking about my service to others, I am talking about those who have volunteered to serve me. As a young child, I was diagnosed with cancer. That diagnosis changed my life. My treatment began when I was 4 years old and continued until I was 9 years old. During that time, many people helped my mother and me as we navigated the harrowing road of pediatric cancer. Just a few of the volunteers that I had the privilege of knowing were the child life specialists who would spend their time playing games and doing crafts with me to ease the pain of my treatment, the therapy dogs and their owners who would visit to help me during those difficult days, the men and women of HomeTown Heroes who raised money to help us with medical bills and who took the children to a local Walmart on Christmas Eve to pick out whatever toys we wanted, and the volunteers at Make-A-Wish who granted my wish for a playset with a clubhouse, pirate flag and spyglass. All of these people touched my life in such profound ways that it instilled in me the desire to do the same for others.

As I grew older and discovered my passions, I realized that I wanted to devote my time to helping other children with cancer. I became a Youth Board member at Kids v. Cancer and have had the privilege of working with Kids v. Cancer to lobby the U.S. Congress for the passage of the Race for Children Act as well as thank them for the passage of the Star Act. I have also represented Kids v. Cancer at Curefest and a Night of Golden Lights at the White House. That was a very moving and humbling experience. I saw childhood cancer survivors, parents who had lost a child to cancer, and children that were battling cancer at the time. I realized how lucky I was to be standing among them and vowed to always strive to use my time and my talents to serve others.

Leading the lobbying team on behalf of Kids v. Cancer was the most meaningful service activity I have done so far in my life. Never before have I felt like I had more of an impact on the world than when I was able to cross my own cancer story with my passion for public policy to help lobby for legislation that has a direct effect on children suffering from cancer. At September’s lobby day, I discussed with the founder of Kids v Cancer, Nancy Goodman, an idea I had researched to add an option on tax returns to donate a portion of state tax refunds to pediatric cancer research. I suggested that we spearhead the initiative in North Carolina. She thought the idea was worth pursuing, not through Kids v Cancer, which should remain focused on passing legislation at the federal level, but put me in contact with people who can help me make it come to life. My next step will be to form the first state-level legislative initiative to pass pediatric cancer research legislation. Ms. Goodman’s words of “No one is doing this – you have to!” has been a driving force in my mind. I have big dreams to help the pediatric cancer community but I know that I need to start small and I am hoping that this first step will launch the change that I hope to see.

I believe that the key to involving local teens in the fight against pediatric cancer is awareness and knowledge. Most teens have no idea what pediatric cancer is all about. They have all seen the smiling faces of the children on the St. Jude’s commercials but they do not comprehend the pain, suffering and horror that envelop those children as they battle for their lives. Compound that with the fact that most teens think that they, and those who are younger than they are, are invincible. They don’t think that their younger sibling or neighbor could ever get cancer. Because of this, I think it is so important to make teens aware of the truth behind pediatric cancer and also the lack of funding available to fight the battle against this disease. If teens in our community understood the truth, I believe that they would rally behind this cause and I know from my own experience with Kids v. Cancer, that once you are involved, it does become a lifelong passion. So how do we educate teens? I believe the best way to educate them is through personal contact and social media. A campaign to spread the word about the Isabella Santos Foundation’s mission in our schools and through social media would have a huge impact. If current high schools students were to be given the tools and opportunities at school to become involved, I believe that a large number would do so. Today’s teens are compassionate and want to help but they need to know about the needs and be made aware of the issues.

Pediatric cancer has residual effects. Because of my treatment I was unable to experience many of the staples of childhood that others tell me about. I could never ride a bike or play sports. It was difficult to see the other kids doing the things that I so longed to do and the experience of watching was truly a hardship in my life. Although, at the time I thought that this lack of experiences was nothing but a detriment to me and my life, I later found out that it was simply a factor of my life that made me who I am today. The constant watching from the sidelines as others played made me more observant and more detail oriented. The exclusion from sports and other activities made me more independent and carefree. The time spent in the hospital and at home, a period in which I spent a great deal of time with adults, made me more mature and gave me an almost inner spirit that has helped me better understand myself and balance my emotions. Most importantly, those experiences taught me that hardships are just that – hard – but that you can always overcome them and often times you are a better, more sophisticated, and prepared person. Because of my early experiences, I have spent a lot of time contemplating my future and whom I want to help. As an undergraduate, my goal is to double major in political science and international studies. I hope to finish my bachelors early in order to complete a master of public administration with a concentration in international policy. I then want to continue my education at law school. My reasons for pursuing these degrees is so that I can participate in advanced levels of research and gain the experience that, particularly in our current political climate, far too many politicians lack. Inexperience often impedes Congress’ ability to draft strong policy, reach across the aisle, and make good decisions as it relates to our country. The result is vague legislation that allows the executive and judicial branches to do the real legislative work. I hope that doing this research will give me the experience necessary to pursue a political career. Although I know that students often change their majors in college, my passion to serve other people will never change and I hope that one day I will be privileged enough to be in a position to help solve our country’s issues, especially the issue of the lack of funding for pediatric cancer research and treatment, through strong public policy