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Santa Barbara, CA, December, 2022 – Twenty years ago, when Nikki Katz founded Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation (TBCF), she could never have dreamed that her new non-profit would lead to life-changing support for families in their darkest hour. Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation’s original mission was simply to bring joy and emotional support for families battling pediatric cancer. In the 20 years since its humble beginning, the mission has expanded to provide financial, emotional and educational support to families living in the tri-counties who are enduring an unthinkable pediatric cancer battle.
“This has been one of TBCF’s most remarkable years for so many reasons,” shared TBCF’s Sr. Development Director Brittany Avila Wazny. “We’ve had the privilege of working with the children we supported in the early years who are now volunteering with us as adults.” Wazny further shared, “It’s been absolutely inspiring to see how many children are flourishing after their cancer journeys. They’ve truly transitioned from surviving to thriving, and we couldn’t be prouder.”
Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation’s 20th anniversary year was marked with a number of significant new grant awards, most notably American Cancer Society’s combined $70,000 grant to providing funding for out-of-town transportation and housing for families treated outside the tri-counties such as Stanford Medical Center, UCLA, City of Hope, Cedars Sinai and others. This support will be distributed in the form of gas gift cards and hotel payments and is in addition to the Direct Financial Assistance families receive. In 2022 over 85% of local families served by TBCF were treated outside of the tri-counties, or over a 50-mile radius from home. “With the current price of gas, these drives placed additional stress on an already traumatic situation,” shared Wazny, “Being able to assure our families that their transportation is covered and that they’ll have a comfortable place to sleep while their child is in treatment away from home is such a comfort.”
Additionally, the Luke 12:48 Foundation provided a substantial holiday grant to surprise every TBCF family currently in treatment with over 65 gift cards and memberships to Costco, at a $750.00 value per family. TBCF worked with past TBCF family, Ronnie DeBrum, General Manager of Santa Maria Costco, and wife Laura, retiree from Costco, who secured additional gift bags for each family with donated items from Costco in their efforts to lift the Christmas spirits of TBCF families. “It is a powerful blessing and so inspiring to be a vehicle for good between two faith-based supporters and our families during such a traumatizing time.” shared Dr. Corey Pahanish, TBCF Executive Director, “we are all beyond grateful to be in a position to surprise our TBCF parents with this generous gift, in addition to fulfilling the kids’ wish lists, delivering Christmas trees and so much more. It also serves as a reminder to our families that they are not alone in this, and there is some bit of normalcy as they endure the unimaginable.”
The Roy & Ida Eagle Foundation, long time supporters of Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation’s mission, along with the S. Mark Taper Foundation also increased their general operating grant awards in 2022 allowing TBCF’s programming to continue and grow. TBCF plans to increase the Direct Financial Assistance amount from $5,000 to $7,000 per family.
Another milestone for TBCF was the implementation of new programming in late 2021 and 2022 including the addition of bilingual individual and couples’ counseling services through a partnership with Family Services Agency; including siblings in their tutoring program; and an additional round of funding of $2,500 in the case of a secondary cancer diagnosis (non-relapse). This was in addition to the $5,000 in Direct Financial Assistance that qualifying families received upon diagnosis to help cover expenses; TBCF currently provides the highest amount of direct financial assistance than any other cancer support organization in the area.
Lastly, the re-opening of the “Bear Necessities” fund will allow TBCF to provide critical items, goods and services in extreme situations such as homelessness. In April of 2022 the mother of a TBCF child in treatment was widowed with three children and then subsequently lost her housing. Through TBCF’s new partnership with the Starfish Foundation, she found a new apartment and the Bear Necessities fund was accessed to help furnish her new home.
Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation’s focus on providing meaningful and tangible support reaches beyond financial aid, which is usually the first area of need. Their programs create lasting relationships such that families have the comfort to reach out for advice, help and support. Their goal is to continue to create community so that no family fights pediatric cancer alone.
In the twenty years since TBCF’s inception, they have provided over $2,500,000 in direct financial aid and served thousands of families in the tri-county area. To learn more about TBCF’s programming visit www.TeddyBearCancerFoundation.org.