On June 26, Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation (TBCF) hosted a lovely picnic on the idyllic grounds of the Montecito Club for a sold-out crowd of 200 guests. The $59,000 raised will go to TBCF’s programs for families in the tri-county area who have a child with cancer.
Upon arrival at the outdoor Sports Complex (held before the temporary restraining order closed the facility), attendees received their gourmet lunches, a bottle of wine, a parasol, a picnic blanket, and other goodies. Many opted to socialize and take in some of the activities before dining. Cornhole was especially popular with adults and older kids, and a sledding hill with young kids. There were wandering teddy bears, singing by youth from the Adderley School and by Josh Jenkins, caricature artist Ray Harris and balloon artist Stephen Watson performing their crafts, and offerings of croquet, bocce, pickleball, and more. Some opted for tables, others for blankets on the ocean-view, grassy expanse above the clubhouse.
TBCF has plenty of experience hosting events, as holding fun events are a key part of their support program for families with a pediatric cancer member. Pre-COVID, TBCF hosted End of Chemo parties on the final day of treatment; Mother’s Spa Day filled with pampering and relaxing; Camp Hana Hou (in collaboration with Surf Happens Foundation), where families learn to surf and take part in beach cleanup; Family Fun Day at Rancho Oso Guest Ranch and Stables; a Holiday Party; and so much more.
COVID, of course, put a hold on all these special events, but TBCF got creative with virtual offerings, including a Easter Egg Hunt, magic shows, game nights, pajama parties, and holiday-themed nights. For families who recently have received a diagnosis, virtual meet and greets have introduced them to TBCF’s offerings. Spa Day was replaced with deliveries of goodies. During the holidays, gifts, gift cards, and food baskets were delivered.
Another key element of its support program is its monthly emotional support groups. The groups, for parents, children, and teens, are led by licensed therapists and offered in English and Spanish. Pre-COVID, groups met over dinner, with childcare provided. With COVID, these groups went virtual, and going forward both virtual and live groups will be offered. The virtual option is attractive to many patients who, for health reasons, cannot be vaccinated, and to family members or patients who have mobility or transportation issues. In 2019, 53 families participated and last year, 46 families participated.
TBCF provides direct financial assistance to low- and moderate-income families. In 2019, it granted nearly $182,000 to 53 families ($3,400 on average). In 2020, $147,000 was granted to 55 families ($2,672 on average), with no applications denied. Last year, another $7,000 in gas and grocery gift cards were distributed, as well as in-kind donations, and holiday gifts and meals.
TBCF’s educational program assists children who are re-entering the school system by offering post-chemo tutoring. In 2019, five kids participated and in 2020, eight kids participated. TBCF also offers neuropsychological assessments, which five kids received in 2019 and two kids received in 2020.
With a $1.2 million budget, this nonprofit has a staff of seven, including TBCF’s Program Director, Becca Solodon, a pediatric cancer survivor and former TBCF recipient. Another staff member was diagnosed with brain cancer at age 21, and two staff members have close relatives who are pediatric cancer survivors, making this a team who brings significant personal experience and passion to their work.
At the helm for the past nine months is Executive Director Corey Pahanish, who has spent the past several months meeting with both current and past TBCF recipient families to gather feedback on how to better serve families going forward. He has some exciting ideas for TBCF’s future, which TBCF will be sharing with the community this fall.
For more info, go to teddybearcancerfoundation.org.