The Grizzly Bear Club, a division of the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation (TBCF), was called out of hibernation last Thursday to address some dire circumstances facing local families with children who have been diagnosed with cancer. “On average, we expect about four children a year to pass away as a result of their diagnosis,” program director Nikki Katz said in her opening statement. “This year, we’ve already lost five kids, and we have two more in hospice with another three in critical condition.” Katz, TBCF’s founder, called the Grizzly Club because she knew she could count on them to react swiftly to ensure that TBCF wouldn’t have to turn anyone away.
The Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation is an organization that aims to provide for and support families with children who have been diagnosed with cancer. They help pay rent and mortgages when parents aren’t able to work as well as expenses like food and, if necessary, funeral costs (which can be as high as $4,000). They’ve sent kids to Lakers games, Justin Bieber concerts, and thrown countless birthday and holiday parties for families that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
“I’m a proud guy. But I had to swallow my pride and ask for help,” said Jeff Zamora, who lost his 5-year-old son Jeff (his namesake) to leukemia almost one year ago. “I have never met any of you, but what you did for my family is incredible. And I’ll be eternally thankful.” Zamora wore his emotions on his sleeve when he shared the story of how TBCS had served his family during the twilight of their young son’s life.
On Christmas of last year, the Zamoras returned home from a hospital visit in L.A. exhausted, figuring that they weren’t going to be able to celebrate that year because they were so short on time and finances. But when they arrived home that night, they opened their door to discover a home that had been decorated with lights and garlands with a tree surrounded by wrapped gifts. They were able to celebrate at their home for around an hour before heading over to Cottage Hospital where they discovered that little Jeff’s room was also decorated with a tree. It was the last Christmas they were able to celebrate together before young Jeff lost his battle with leukemia.
After sharing this story, Zamora made the first pledge of the night to cover costs of the unusually high number of children whose situations are tragically dire. Others soon followed until an anonymous donor pledged to match any of the pledges made that evening.
The Grizzly Club, Katz said, is a group that she’s always been able to count on. And from the looks of things, its members came through once again. For more information on the Teddy Bar Cancer Association, and how you can become a member of the Grizzly Club, visit the Web site: www.teddybearcancerfoundation.org.