Founder Nikki Katz and board chair Donna Barranco Fisher.

Gail Arnold

Founder Nikki Katz and board chair Donna Barranco Fisher.

Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation Holds Gold Ribbon Luncheon

Event at Coral Casino is Culmination of Annual Gold Ribbon Campaign

On Wednesday, October 6, about 300 supporters of the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation (TBCF) celebrated the culmination of the 4th annual Gold Ribbon Campaign with a luncheon at the Biltmore’s Coral Casino.

TBCF was formed by Nikki Katz in 2002 to offer a support system for families with children suffering from cancer on the Central Coast. It provides financial, educational, and emotional support to families in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties.

The Campaign’s main purposes were to increase awareness about pediatric cancer and how it affects families and to raise funds for TBCF’s financial and emotional support programs. The final tally is not in, but TBCF thinks that it reached its $300,000 goal.

As guests entered the oceanfront terrace of the La Pacifica Ballroom for the pre-luncheon reception, they were greeted not only with their choice of beverage, but also the opportunity to wear a hospital ID bracelet featuring the first name, age of diagnosis, and type of cancer of one of the 158 children that TBCF helped last year. This was a clever and sober reminder of the daily battle faced by children with cancer. Many guests were visibly moved by this.

It was, though, a day of celebration, and guests also basked in the sunshine on the warm and wind-free day, mingling, taking in the ocean views, and perusing silent auction items.

Guests then adjourned into the ballroom for a three-course luncheon. Entertainment started the program with the 2016 Santa Barbara Teen Star USA, Jackson Gillies, singing and playing guitar before Andrew Firestone enthusiastically welcomed the guests and shared his passion for the cause. With the live auction and paddle raise, Firestone encouraged guests to bid and donate to support “one of the most critical organizations in town.”

Executive director Lindsey Leonard drove home the prevalence of pediatric cancer by noting that every 36 minutes, another child is diagnosed with cancer. TBCF’s strategic plan calls for fully supporting every Tri-County family who has a child with cancer who needs TBCF’s help.

Lacy Taylor, whose son Wyatt was diagnosed with Burkitts lymphoma in 2009, expressed deep gratitude for the help her family received from TBCF. She shared that while they had good insurance, there were still thousands of dollars of medical expenses that were not reimbursed and she had to quit her job to care for her son. In addition, Wyatt needed tutoring, testing, and counseling to deal with the loss of his hospital mate.

Wyatt, now age 15 and cancer-free, along with Paloma Angel, age 17, and Talia Gerstenfeld, age 13, were recognized for the significant sums they have each raised for TBCF.

The event presented four main awards. The first went to Carla and Shaun Tomson for their extensive giving of their time, money, and talent. They have greatly assisted with TBCF’s fundraising efforts.

Cottage Children’s Medical Center was recognized for the tireless work of its staff on a daily basis to alleviate the suffering of children battling cancer and providing the comfort and care that the children and their families need. Kristin Scott, a mother whose son was just diagnosed in July with leukemia, shared her immense gratitude for the assistance the whole team provides not just to their child, but to the whole family, noting all the special things they do and saying “they are forever family.”

The Krasnoff Family, who lost their own daughter to cancer when she was only two, was recognized for all the support the family has provided to other families and for being advocates for the cause.

Lastly, Pati Kern was recognized for her longstanding volunteer commitment, coordinating major fundraising events and the Moments in Time program.

TBCF’s financial assistance programs assist with the non-medical costs accompanying a childhood cancer diagnosis including: rent, mortgage, hotel accommodations and hospital meals, and funeral expenses. Since the organization’s founding in 2002, it has granted more than $1.6 million in financial assistance.

The emotional support programs include family support groups, bereavement support groups, and social events. The educational programs include tutoring and neuropsychological testing.

For more information about the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, go to

By Gail Arnold

Board secretary Bibi Moezzi and executive director Lindsey Leonard.

By Gail Arnold

Sponsor Wyatt Taylor, board director Adriana Mezic, and sponsor Paloma Angel.

By Gail Arnold

Guests enjoy lunch.

By Gail Arnold

Honorees Carla and Shaun Tomson.

By Gail Arnold

Appropriate podium decor.

By Gail Arnold

Honoree Pati Kern and board chair Donna Barranco Fisher.

By Gail Arnold

Founder Nikki Katz and board chair Donna Barranco Fisher.

By Gail Arnold

Event ambassador co-chair Sheela Hunt and board director Carolyn Shepard Baham.

By Gail Arnold

Cottage Children’s Medical Center staff: Talin Yepremian, RN, Carla Alnes, RN, Jaynie Wood, child life specialist, Kristina Benedicto, RN, and Vicki Lekas, MS, clinical nurse specialist.

By Gail Arnold

2016 Santa Barbara Teen Star USA Jackson Gillies.

By Gail Arnold

Board director David Edelman (center), with Hospice of Santa Barbara CEO David Selberg and Hospice director of strategic advancement Charles Caldwell

By Gail Arnold

Host and auctioneer Andrew Firestone and John Weninger, one of the winemakers at Los Cinco Locos Winery.

By Gail Arnold

Sponsor Talia Gerstenfeld (right) with her mother, Bonnie Gerstenfeld.

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