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April Executive Director Dish

March is always a big one for us here at ISF.  Isabella’s 14th birthday would have been March 9th and each year we try to think of new ways to honor her but also do it in a way that is respectful of the day.  I’m always anti-birthday cake and a Happy Birthday song on that day and as many of you know – I stay far away to preserve my own heart.   I personally always think blood drives are the way to go.  What better way to honor a life, than to give a life?  

Our relationship with the Community Blood Center (which will be changing their name to “One Blood”, but same community mission and same team) is stronger than ever.  One of the big things I’m working on this year is defining the meaning of PARTNERSHIP.  I saw a quote once that has just stuck with me…

“If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”

Our partnership with CBCC is one of our favorites because we believe in each other’s missions and want to do everything we can to make each other a success.  It really is like a family dynamic for us, much like Levine Children’s Hospital.  So what better way to celebrate Isabella, than with our family?  I loved watching the social media from afar (yup, I got the heck out of dodge).  Of course, we have our old school ISF supporters who have been there from the beginning, but I loved seeing the new wave of ISF sitting in those donations chairs.  I know the lines were long and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate each and every single person who took the time to give.  In all, 239 units were collected and 717 lives were impacted.  I mean… come on.  That’s insane.  I truly can’t express how much this personally meant to me. My goal is to one day have a 500 unit drive and I’m thinking 2020 is our year. 

Speaking of the blood center, my Marketing Director Rachel Wood and I boarded a plane for DC last month as I was honored with a national award from the American Blood Center.  It was such a humbling experience receiving the Larry Frederick Award for our commitment to raising awareness for the need of blood donation.  Larry was there to introduce me and watching him raise a picture of my daughter on stage to a silent room really broke my heart.  Larry was so touched by her story and the people that we met that evening were amazing.  Thank you to Marin Grable and his team for the nomination.  It really was a beautiful evening.

Right off the plane and right into the Jersey Mike’s Day of Giving.   Speaking of great partnerships.  Boy, do we appreciate our Jersey Mike’s partnership!  The team did such an amazing job of spreading the word and wow did our supporters deliver.  Last year we raised just over $135,000 and this year we blew it out of the water raising just over $167,000 for ISF.  The owners of Jersey Mike’s and their staff rocked it out that day in their Cancer Messed with the Wrong Team shirts.  You had to be living under a rock to not see your social media channels flooded with subs.  We love partners in the community like this who understand the importance of giving back.  What an impact they made in one single day on top of a giving month as well.  Unreal.

As you know, one of my other philosophies at ISF is to “Work Smarter.  Not Harder.”  For this reason in 2019 we really narrowed our focus to Charlotte.  We dropped some of our expansion events that were successful, but lots of work and travel.  Instead, we are looking to grow our reach in the Charlotte community.  I feel like the impact we are making here in Charlotte at Levine’s over the next 5 years should be something every single Charlottean should care about – so we are focusing on you.  And not to mention what having a successful nation-wide known rare pediatric cancer program in our city… who and what that will attract.  Simply put, we are working to help make our city better.  For that reason, our May event calendar is slammed.  

Our traditional Coffee for Cure events are being revamped.  As a non-profit, it is important to keep those events new, current, and relevant.  So we have a host of events coming up in May geared around Moms.  Cancer Moms are handed one crappy deck of cards in life and the amount of time they have to spend keeping their children alive doesn’t leave much time left for them to also find a cure for their disease.  So we are working in their honor in the month of May and letting you know how Cancer Messed With the Wrong Mom.  We are not only supporting the Moms who are fighting for children but also funding research so desperately needed for their rare cancer patients. Take a look at the May Garden Parties and let us know if you want to join.  So many of you understand the importance of what we are doing and we need your support.  Attend the events if you can, bring a friend to introduce her to ISF, donate in honor of a Mom, donate in honor of a child.  We just ask that you do something with ISF in May to make a difference.  These kids (and Moms) need your help.

Also, all of these May events have expenses associated with them and we would LOVE to cover them through the generosity of sponsorships.  Thank you to Pure Intentions Coffee who will be providing coffee for all events! Owner, Matt Yarmey, is on our Board of Directors and takes his role in our Charlotte community serious. We love how he has jumped in to help us make a difference. If your business is looking to get in front of the amazing philanthropic community of women in Charlotte, please email me, I would love to talk to about how your business can become a “partner” of ours.  You know we believe in growing great partnerships!!!  

Whew!  That was a busy month!  I feel like I say that every month though.   We hope you all have a wonderful spring break this month and come back energized for the big May events we have coming up at ISF.  And again, thank you for all the support you provided in March that allowed us to have one our best months to date.  You guys are the best. 

Erin (Isabella’s Mommy)


February Executive Director Dish

Executive Director Update, February 2019, Written by Erin Santos

I can’t believe we are hitting mid-February!  For us here at ISF, January hits us like a ton of bricks.  We had such a busy 4th quarter with the MIBG opening and trying to squeeze every last donation into our 2018 year, by the time December 18th hit – I told the girls to enjoy the holidays.  I mean check in… but catch up on your lives because January would be no joke.  Luckily the gears keep moving and we saw lots of great things come in at the end of the year with PR including being featured as a Charlotte Unsung Hero, our first family in the MIBG room and our total amount raised beating last year by 30%.  

But, that is all behind us now.  January hit us hard.  We decided to change up pretty much everything we did from how we run our meetings, where we run our meetings, how we organize work, how we capture donors and even our website will be turned upside down.  All things that needed to happen to go back to our idea we discuss all the time about working smarter not harder.  My team is more organized and stronger than it has ever been.  Need I say, we actually work like a real grown up charity these days.  I love it.  

We also took a moment to think about what was important to the Foundation.  For us, our goal this year is to continue to spread our brand awareness in the Charlotte community and really diversify our revenue stream.  Who doesn’t know about ISF?  Apparently, a lot of people – and we are going to change that.  You know those businesses that you just happen to see everywhere you go like Atrium Health or OrthoCarolina.  Yeah, that’s going to be us.   Have you seen my involvement with the Charlotte Ballet’s Dancing with the Stars Program?  That’s just not about me wanting to get in shape.  The reason we are doing it is to gain awareness in the community.  All those people sitting in the audience who support the arts and have never heard of ISF.  Not anymore.  Let’s just say that once the night is over, they are definitely going to know who we are.  I may just kill myself in the process.  Click here to support me.

Diversifying our revenue streams… what do I mean here?  Man are we event heavy.  And do you know what is expensive?  Events.  There are so many ways for funds to come into a charity such as grants, beneficiary events, 3 wish circle members and more peer to peer fundraising.  I’m sure you think, oh man… there is ISF asking me to raise money for them again.  But do you know why we ask?  Because it is the most efficient way for us to achieve our goals.  Studies have shown that people will give to charities because their friends give to that charity.  So if someone knows you think we are pretty cool… they may start to think we are pretty cool too.  Pretty simple.  Oh and just as an example of our beneficiary events… have you heard about the Jersey Mike’s Give Back Day coming up in March?  Yeah?  Try $130,000 in one day.  We love ourselves some Jersey Mikes and we are now their biggest sub eaters.  

Events.  Of course we know we put on killer events.  (Brushing my shoulders off here… yes, Rachel our Marketing Director is rolling her eyes and cringing at my use of words and arrogance right now)  However, events need to stay fresh.  So that’s why we are constantly thinking of new ways to bring you our signature event to you such as our Coffee for a Cure, the 5k and 10k and don’t forget our Gala this year that is going to be INSANE!  Don’t worry, the same ole’ ISF feel will be there – but you know we gotta turn it up a notch, or two.

Another big focus of ours is expanding our community support.  Businesses have always been so great to us as an organization.  Our latest addition, Kerry Winslow, is taking on Corporate Philanthropy while Karen Murphy has stepped into Sponsorships and Partnerships.  They have a big year ahead of them on communicating to the Charlotte business on why they should support us.  While we have great events, the mission and what we are doing with building this Rare and Solid Tumor Program at Levine over the next 5 years is something unheard of in pediatric cancer in the US.    And we are bringing it here to Charlotte… can you think of something cooler to put your business name on?  I can’t.

Speaking of business.  Have you met our board?  Because we basically have the coolest board in town.  It’s going to double in the next couple of months with some of the brightest and best people in Charlotte stepping on.  With this group behind us, we can accomplish anything.  Thank you to the following who have stepped on and looking forward to the others who will be joining us in the coming months:

  • Sandra Szoke, Impact Marketing
  • Blair Primis, OrthoCarolina
  • Suzie Ford, NoDa Brewing
  • Matt Yarmey, Pure Intentions
  • Dr. Jennifer Pope, Levine Children’s Hospital
  • Tim Miner, Charlotte is Creative
  • Becky Berolatti, New Dominion Bank
  • Jennifer Ross, Accounting Consultant

Our last “little” project coming at you in 2019 is Cancer Messed With.  We love this brand and all the things we are doing with it.  These soft vintage shirts are hitting the streets of Charlotte and nationwide and we love seeing people in them.  Sadly, everyone is affected by cancer and we want to show cancer it messed with the wrong person, family, mother, guy, kid… whoever.  We are stronger than cancer.  We want you all to get one for someone you love, have your business come together to show a co-worker who is battling that you are behind them… whatever the case may be.  We find that we feel just a little stronger when we have our CMW on, and you will too.

Sure, this ED update may be a little arrogant, but you know what?  I’m EXCITED!  I find that I’m working harder than ever and I’m loving my job and the people I have around me.  Every single day this is about Isabella and that will never change for me.  But I don’t expect it to always be about her for you.  My hope is that you will want to be involved with what we are doing because it makes you really feel like you are doing something is REALLY making a difference.  That’s what we are doing here, I hope you can see it and I hope you want join us.

Looking forward to updating you each and every month on what we are doing here at ISF.  I can’t wait to share.

Love, Erin (Isabella’s Mommy oh yeah… and Executive Director)