SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation launched its "Season of Hope" campaign on Friday, kickstarting a month of giving to families facing childhood cancer along with the financial and emotional toll of the pandemic this year.
The campaign is set to provide those families with basic holiday needs and some much-needed joy heading into 2021.
Starting this weekend, TBCF is planning to deliver Christmas trees and gifts to more than 50 families from Camarillo to San Luis Obispo.
The gifts will go to children receiving cancer treatment and their siblings.
“This really is about providing hope and spirit—holiday spirit—in a time that’s very critical for a family’s health and wellbeing,” said Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation executive director Corey Pahanish.
“We worked really hard to provide families with gifts for their children that otherwise would not have the money to do that,” said Nanci Alvarado, a volunteer at the Foundation and social worker with the Cottage Children’s Medical Clinic. “It means everything for them… and the children are ecstatic to have a Christmas gift when some of them—the older ones—thought they might not.”
All the gifts have been donated by community members, partner organizations and businesses. This year, volunteers are taking extra time to wrap, organize and deliver presents.
“I mean, everyone has suffered this year but to be able to help these families this year specifically, it means so, so much,” said TBCF volunteer coordinator Tessa Boyce. “As a cancer survivor, I really know how isolating it can feel when you’re going through cancer treatment. To know that you have the support of the community behind you, it makes me emotional thinking about how our community completely steps up.”
Following COVID-19 safety protocols, volunteers will leave gifts at the front door of each household at a pre-arranged time. They will then step back before family members open the door.
The financial strain and widespread wage loss of the pandemic has disproportionately affected families with a child being treated for cancer. The combined financial and emotional struggle through treatment and the COVID crisis has left many families facing a bleak holiday season.
“All of this stuff adds up and becomes overwhelming,” Pahanish said. “And now, on top of that, you’re having to consider canceling Christmas for your children? I can’t imagine having that conversation… This [campaign] is way more than just about gifts that we’re handing out… It is that ‘Christmas miracle.’”
The Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation has already taken hundreds of toy and monetary donations from the community and is looking for more to support families in need throughout the holidays.
To make a donation or learn more, you can visit the Foundation's website.