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As published in The Community Foundation Spotlight in The Press Enterprise on December 17, 2016

Childhood Cancer Foundation of Southern CaliforniaBrooklyn Hills, photo from our 2017 "Inspire" Calendar Childhood Cancer Foundation of Southern California’s mission of bringing hope to children fighting cancer and their families may seem especially poignant during the holidays, but the organization strives to make it a year-long endeavor.  

This year, on December 4, the Childhood Cancer Foundation of Southern California invited families to their biggest event of the year. Children fighting cancer, their parents and siblings spent an afternoon mingling with peers and finding joy in the holiday season.  The foundation provided craft and activity tables, live entertainment, family portraits with Santa, raffles, and a present for each child. 

Childhood Cancer Foundation of Southern CaliforniaKevin Casteneda on Santa's Lap, with brother Matthew Castaneda and mother Monica CastanedaThis year the annual event was attended by over 300 children, including siblings, who immersed themselves in the joy of the holidays. The heart of this event and the mission of the Childhood Cancer Foundation was the opportunity for these families to connect with others combating and managing the same daily struggles.  

“We always see little reunions and the friendships of these families continue for years,” said Stephanie Avila, Executive Director. “Our events are their gathering points. Because of the holidays, we able to increase happiness and cheer. Our biggest hope is to shine a light on happiness and the joy of being a child.”

Childhood Cancer Foundation of Southern CaliforniaMaraya Perez at our Spring Egg HuntThe foundation is dedicated to supporting families emotionally so that they feel less isolated, frustrated and fearful in dealing with the everyday challenges that cancer creates within the family structure. Avila noted that often parents have to quit their jobs and face major life adjustments and challenges during a child’s treatment.

“Basically, their life gets placed on hold. A new normal begins and you never go back to the old normal,” said Avila. “Connecting them with families who have been through a similar experience gives them hope and gives them strength to fight.”

Active since 1979, the foundation serves over 100 families every year. Any family who has a child with cancer being treated at Loma Linda University Children's Hospital, San Bernardino area hospitals, and Riverside hospitals is invited to participate.  Additionally, families in outlying areas may become a member and participate in the family activities and events. There is no cost to the families for participating.

ccfsc16-4Steven Holland, photo from our 2017 "Inspire" CalendarThe foundation provides educational materials as well as emergency assistance throughout the year. Staff also meets with patients and families, organizes events and provides weekly gift distribution for children in the hospital throughout the year. 

“There is going to be a child sick in the hospital in the month of July as well as December and we actually visit the hospital unit ever week on Tuesday so the children know there are people thinking of them,” said Avila. “Families are in need during the holidays as well, but it’s essential to be there for them throughout the year.” 

However, the foundation works with a staff of only two paid employees, depending on 8 volunteer board members, and a roster of a little over 1,000 volunteers. Funding is dependent on the community, but community awareness is a struggle.

ccfsc16-5Isabella Marquez, hospital visitation and gift distribution visit“We are a very small organization and so there is no money for advertising and very low visibility,” said Avila. “That limits the awareness of our program. And that is our biggest struggle.”

Recently, Childhood Cancer Foundation of Southern California received a grant from the Youth Grantmakers Program of The Community Foundation. Avila noted that every year is a clean slate however, and funding is always crucial. 

“We do have a Christmas campaign and I hope the community will consider a donation,” said Avila.  “And of course, we are always looking for volunteers. It’s a great way to get firsthand experience in how our programming helps families.”

For more information: or (909) 558-3419