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"All" About Our Beneficiary: The Isabella Santos Foundation

All-In to Fight Cancer is proud to support the Isabella Santos Foundation, a Charlotte-based 501 (c)(3) furthering advances in neuroblastoma research and supporting pediatric cancer causes. We recently were honored with the opportunity to meet with Erin Santos, ISF’s president and executive director, and Isabella’s mom.

 

Tell me the story behind the Isabella Santos Foundation.

Our journey began when my daughter, Isabella was diagnosed with neuroblastoma back in 2007. She was only two. The survival rate was less than 40%, plummeting to less than 5% once a child relapses. We were devastated – in ways people can and I hope, cannot, imagine. ISF was initially established to help our family through those difficult days, but as “Ib” defied the odds – for nearly five years – the ISF mission became one of research. Ib relapsed five different times, enduring countless horrible treatments, before passing away in 2012.  ISF continues, though, knowing that new drugs and therapies are on the horizon. We want to ensure other families do not have to endure this horrific loss.

How has ISF evolved?

That first year, friends organized a 5K run. We were thrilled when about 150 people showed up, and we raised about $7,000. Now, while we remain a grassroots, volunteer-reliant nonprofit, ISF is the beneficiary of fundraisers 12 months a year, including bake sales, tri-athlons, etc.. The 5K, however, remains our marquee event. Last year’s 5K for Kids Cancer included about 3,000 participants, helping us raise a total of $600,000 in 2015, and we’re looking to raise that number substantially in 2016. Next month, we’ll celebrate our ninth ISF run – which has evolved to include a 10K and Fun Run. We’re expecting 4,000 participants and aiming to set another record, boosting our annual fundraising to $750,000.

How did ISF begin working with All-In to Fight Cancer?

The father of one of Isabella’s classmates, Chris Wilcox, is on our Board, as well as Susie Ford, of NoDa Brewery. They made the introduction, recognizing that All-In did not yet have a beneficiary focusing on pediatric cancer. I think it was meant to be.

How do you put All-In donations to use? 

I’m so glad you asked! ISF identified a doctor in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Giselle Sholler, who runs a lab focused on identifying new neuroblastoma therapies, including low risk, low side-effect treatments for children in remission. Her trials, which we’ve been able to support, are available in a network of 25 universities and children’s hospitals nationwide, including here in Charlotte.

What do you appreciate most about the work you’re able to do with ISF?

Even though my Ib passed away, I’m gratified to be taking on the hard work for other neuroblastoma families here in Charlotte. It’s super rewarding to know that the harder we work, the more likely it is that these kids will have a fighting chance. Through her passing, it’s the best gift Isabella could possibly give.

What’s next for ISF?

We are full steam ahead for 9th Annual Isabella Santos Foundation 5K For Kids Cancer, 10K and 1 Mile Fun Run on September 24, and this year, we want to blow people away more than ever before – with a silent auction, a kid zone, and more. In the immediate future, we’ve also got Coffee For A Cure later this month, a triathlon in October, and in November, an American Girl Tea Party [LINK?]. We’re on course for raising $750,000 this year, but our ultimate goal is a million dollars a year. I think we’ll be there in no time.

How can people support ISF?

The best way is to head to www.5Kkforkidscancer.com and register for our September event. But you can also go to Facebook or just email us at info@isabellasantosfoundation.org. And, if you’ve got your own event ideas, let us know, and we’ll do whatever we can to support your efforts.

In addition, we’re still recruiting for Isabella’s Dream Team. We’ve already got over 140 individuals committed to running a half marathon in November. We provide the coach, motivation, purpose, camaradie, and of course, that all important ISF “swag.” We’d love to have more runners join us – both at the half marathon, and of course, at the All-In to Fight Cancer Texas Hold’em fundraiser in March!