The glamour, excitement and fantasy of James Bond movies were on full display at Santa Barbara’s Saks Fifth Avenue, which set the scene for a sold-out crowd of stylishly dressed guests at the Seventh Annual Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation fundraiser, Saks & The City.
Playing off the seven-theme, supporters of the organization were given a “License to Shop,” 007-style, at the benefit.
This important assistance goes to low- and moderate-income families to cover basic needs, including hospital vouchers, mortgages, utilities, car payments and hotel accommodations, as well as educational support programs while their children are undergoing cancer treatment.
“Last year, in 2013, we were very excited to have been able to provide support to a record 155 families, and this year we are able to continue our positive growth trajectory,” said Lindsey Guerrero, TBCF’s executive director. “But it certainly wouldn’t be possible without the support of all our supporters. Events like Saks & The City enable us to be able to continue to give back to the families.”
The Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, established in 2002 by founder Nikki Katz, is a nonprofit, grassroots organization that aims to assist families of children who have been diagnosed with cancer throughout Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties.
“We are really working tirelessly to support the families that are not only in Santa Barbara County but also in the further reaches of our service territory, such as San Luis Obispo, and, of course, southern Ventura County,” Guerrero said.
The luxurious spirit of the night included mini-makeovers from store employees, local masseuses, signature cocktails, scrumptious appetizers from local restaurants and caterers, music and dancing.
Guests enjoyed a festive mood within the store while, upstairs, more people gathered around blackjack, craps and poker tables.
Following a dance performance and silent auction was a welcome message from actor and Montecito resident Billy Baldwin, who was the master of ceremonies and auctioneer for a live auction.
Baldwin shared with Noozhawk what has brought him back over the past few years to participate in the event and support the cause.
“The cause, the families, the children, the need,” he explained. “It addresses a very specific niche that kind of sometimes can slip between the cracks. So it’s important to provide that type of financial and emotional support for families that are in the midst of this type of crisis.”
One of the unique auction items included a chance to be “007” for a da,y with a luxurious James Bond experience at Bacara Resort & Spa, promising to take one lucky winner on a secret mission across land, sea and air.
A touching testimonial from the Zamora family focused the spotlight on the important cause as Jeff and Erika shared their experiences when their son, Jeffrey Zamora II, was diagnosed in 2006 with leukemia at the age of 18 months. The Zamoras have been ambassadors to other families in the community.
“We exist to alleviate the financial burden that many families experience,” Guerrero said. “In fact, the average out-of-pocket expense for a family of a child that has cancer is $10,000 each year.
“And this is compounded by the fact that often times one or more parents have to quit their job or reduce their work hours, thus adding to their financial situation. So, for us, we do gift upward of $12,000 to a family in need, and we also offer a lot of emotional support programs.”
A paddle raise and raffle drawing followed before the casino closed and guests who didn’t want to stop their adventure headed to the nearby Canary Hotel for an after-party, dancing the night away to the beats of DJ Tru.
In addition to financial assistance, TCBF provides licensed, bilingual social workers to facilitate family support groups in Santa Barbara, and educational services are available for families to help address their children’s cognitive learning problems, which is a common side effect associated with chemotherapy.
“We’ve now been able to gift more than $1 million of financial assistance since our inception in 2002,” Guerrero told Noozhawk. “This event, Saks & The City, has raised more than $500,000 since the first year, 2008. So this event is one of our signature fundraising events, and really helps us bring in about 20 percent of our operations revenue.”
Click here for more information about the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, or call 805.962.7466. Click here to make an online donation. Connect with the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation on Facebook, or follow TBCF on Twitter: @TBCF4Kids.
— Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.