Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation is continuing the fight against childhood cancer amid COVID-19
Around the world, September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Locally, awareness and money are being raised by Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation.
The Santa Barbara-based foundation is gearing up to host its eighth annual Gold Ribbon Campaign this month to raise money for local families who have a child with cancer.
Founded in 2002, the nonprofit advocates for families living in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has created new hurdles for the foundation, this year’s theme for the Gold Ribbon fundraising campaign is “Never, Never, Never Give Up” in honor of this year’s featured child, Axel Penaloza.
Axel was diagnosed with a germ cell tumor in 2017 and spent a total of nine months at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles during his recovery.
He endured chemotherapy, three brain surgeries and radiation, But during his recovery, Axel wrote an inspiring letter for other children battling cancer.
To help children like Axel, Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation provides families with financial, educational and emotional support.
Eryn Shugart, the foundation’s interim executive director, told the News-Press that because of COVID-19, many of the foundation’s families need the nonprofit’s help now more than ever. She noted certain pandemic restrictions have cost families their jobs and that more local families are now unable to buy food or clothing, or pay rent or medical expenses.
In response, the foundation is increasing it services and is now serving a greater number of families, Ms. Shugart said.
In addition to the pandemic’s impact on families, COVID-19 has caused a void in fundraising, she said.
For the first time, the foundation is unable to hold its annual luncheon at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. According to Ms. Shugart, the Montecito event normally brings in more than $135,000 in donations every year for the nonprofit’s Gold Ribbon Campaign.
In lieu of the luncheon, the foundation is working to add more local sponsors and plans to host a virtual silent auction from Sept. 25 through Sept. 30.
You can see the auction items during a viewing event with social distancing from 8 to 11 a.m. Sept. 26 outside Nurture Cottage, 1213 Coast Village Road, Montecito.
Items include TV and movie star Tim Allen’s voice on your voicemail greeting; fashion items from Burberry, Gucci, Prada, Hermes and Balenciaga; a David Yurman necklace; a gift basket from Field and Fort; a two-night stay and dinner in Palm Springs; children’s formal wear courtesy of Macy’s and more.
Online auction bidding will close on Sept. 30 at 5:30 p.m. For more information about the auction, visit www.32auctions.com/TBCF2020.
And Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation has raised more than $7,000 in grocery store gift cards as well as double the number of support groups offered for Tri-Counties families during the pandemic.
The foundation is also collaborating with other local organizations to host a Virtual Family Connection Event via Zoom.
Ms. Shugart said the Sept. 19 event is a great way for children and their families to enjoy the company of those with similar experiences.