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Tuesday, January 22 , 2019, 7:59 pm | Fair 50º


Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation Gets Dressed Up for Girls’ Night Out

Saks & The City V benefit raises funds to lift spirits of families with living-expenses needs

Santa Barbara’s finest, styled head-to-toe in the latest spring fashion trends, stepped out for the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation Saks & The City V “Girls Night Out” fundraiser at Saks Fifth Avenue downtown. A sold-out crowd of more than 300 guests jammed the store.

The fun-filled evening benefited TBCF, a nonprofit organization founded in 2003 by Nikki Simon Katz. TBCF supports children diagnosed with cancer and provides financial assistance to families of low and moderate income to cover basic needs, including hospital vouchers, mortgages, utilities, car payments and hotel accommodations, as well as educational support programs.

“The mission of the foundation is to ensure that children with cancer receive the undivided comfort of their parents during treatment and recovery by providing families and parents with financial and emotional support,” said Lindsey Guerrero, TBCF’s executive director.

By early evening, the first-floor reception area was filled with fashionistas who posed for photo ops donned in off-the-shoulder, floor-length gowns and strapless flowing cocktail gowns embellished in sequins, animal prints and bold color combos. Other guests, meanwhile, showed off stylish solid color wrap dresses, sporty shorts paired with a matching blazer, and jersey pants suits by Prada, Gucci, Chanel and Valentino — to name but a few.

Lindsey Mickelson, owner of CMND-Z, was all smiles as she stood proudly beside a clothing rack crammed with the vibrant Saks & The City V T-shirts she created in her print shop especially for the occasion. A donation of $20 per shirt scored guests an evening’s memento.

“My personal experience with TBCF is really gratifying because I have the opportunity to collaborate with hard-working prominent women within the community,” said Mickelson. “I make art, and art makes people happy. It’s a beautiful relationship I have with my career, and to see attendees at this event spend their money on my T-shirts is very fulfilling. It’s an honor to be affiliated with TBCF and Saks & The City V.”

The ratio of women outnumbered men about 4-to-1 and confirmed it was clearly a ladies-night out as women in stylish stilettos assembled in small groups and roamed the aisles of specialty booths as if seeking out hidden treasures among the many delights sure to meet any girls needs.

Later, partygoers feasted upon a delicious array of hor d’ouevres, cocktails and desserts offered by Santa Barbara’s finest restaurants, including Olio e Limone Ristorante, Le Crepe Shoppe and Reds Bar and Tapas.

Some guests even received complimentary hair and makeup consultations from Skin Resolutions and Dolce Vista Salon Santa Barbara or indulged in custom massages by masseuse Alex Diaz, Maes Center for Natural Health Care and Santa Barbara Bodyworks. Other guests pampered themselves at spa treatment stations offered by Salon U and Zen Diva Spa while others looked to spruce up their spring wardrobes shopping for designer fashions and cosmetics.

Long lines also formed at a photo booth and tarot tables positioned around the first floor, and upstairs more people gathered around blackjack, craps and poker tables provided by Dice & Diamonds Casino. And DJ Fab kept the mood festive, spinning thumping world beat tunes that flowed between floors.

Next, the music, animated chatter and bouts of laughter toned down just a bit for some live entertainment and an informative presentation hosted by reality star Lisa Gastineau, who introduced energetic dancers from Gypzy Suite, who in turn enthralled the crowd of onlookers with sensual, breathtaking performances.

Guerrero thanked the crowd for supporting TBCF and stressed the need for continued contributions.

“These tough economic times have been challenging for everyone,” she said. “But imagine facing today’s hardships with a child who has cancer.”

And, Guerrero explained, often when a child is diagnosed with cancer, parents have to take time off from work or even lose their jobs, insurance and homes to be with their child.

To compensate for looming expenses and to lessen the financial burden TBCF, provides scholarships from $2,500 to $5,000 in financial aid for those who qualify.

“We provide family members with food vouchers to use at various local markets and hospital cafeterias. who may not have relatives that live nearby, and gas cards to assist with travel expenses,” said Guerrero. “As well as care packages that include toys for the child and for parents, including toiletries, phone card, disposable camera and other necessities.”

Next, Guerrero introduced guest speaker Samantha McVee, who shared an inspiring story about her 2-year old daughter’s fight with cancer.

McVee explained that her daughter, Eliana Georges, was 4 months old when she was diagnosed with pilomyxoid astrocytoma, a brain tumor located at the base of her brain stem that had caused the infant to suffer a stroke.

Eliana underwent surgery, but the doctors were only able to remove a portion of the tumor and she spent three months at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles until she was discharged in December 2009. That’s when McVee and Eliana’s father, Michael Georges, returned to their home in Santa Barbara and were introduced to TBCF.

After Eliana was released from the hospital, for the next 19 months, the couple transported her between Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and Children’s Hospital as she received chemotherapy treatments and shared the positive effects of TBCF’s grant and support.

“They gave us the grant so I didn’t have to work, but Michael went back to work when we came home so he could help support us while I cared for Eliana,” Mcvee said. “Teddy Bear granted us a $5,000 scholarship that allowed me to pay utilities, rent and car payment. They took that huge stress that you worry about ... and they made it OK. So I was able to focus my attention on Eliana and take her to the doctors’ appointments and not have to worry about working on top of trying to take care of my daughter.”

McVee said she transported her daughter to Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles three times a week for physical therapy and occupational therapy but also shared that her health has significantly improved as Eliana, who turns 3 on May 6, is currently in recovery and receives progress checkups every three months.

“The tumor is still there but it’s stable and inactive so it’s not growing or causing any problems, and we’ve been off chemo for 10 months now,” McVee explained. “We have been able to enjoy playing in the park, and go to the (Santa Barbara) Zoo and do normal, family happy things.

“She’s doing amazing and we’re so blessed to have Teddy Bear in our lives.”

Later, auctioneer Billy Baldwin hosted a live auction with hot items for bid that included a Channel Islands Surf Retreat with surf legend Shaun Tomson, a Tahoe Luxury Lakefront Home Getaway Vacation with a three-night stay in a 10-bedroom home overlooking Lake Tahoe, and a Private Montecito Dinner Party for 12 with celebrity chef Sam Talbot.

After the live auction, Baldwin told Noozhawk that he’s a huge supporter of the TBCF.

“This is a great community, Santa Barbara, and a great group of women and the most important thing is the cause,” he said. “They’re providing services for families that are in conflict and crisis that a lot of other organizations don’t think to provide.

“If your child is stricken with catastrophic illness and you’ve got to go down to Cedars-Sinai or UCLA and your kid’s going to be there getting treatment for three, four or five months you’ll need transportation, gas, food, health care and hotels. Teddy Bear provides the stuff that slips between the cracks and provides the support and the love that theses families really need.”

Click here for more information on the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, or call 805.962.7466. Connect with the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation on Facebook. Follow Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation on Twitter: @TBCF4Kids.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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