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Tuesday, January 22 , 2019, 3:47 am | Fair 54º


Despite Own Troubles, Community’s Generosity Abides

Standing in the Reagan Room of The Fess Parker the morning of Feb. 27, it was nearly impossible to believe some of the 240 guests mingling over coffee had spent much of the past three months facing fires, flash floods, mudslides and mandatory evacuations.

It would be understandable for a community under such duress to retreat, pull their attention inward, focus on helping themselves, their friends, and their neighbors as they worked together to grieve, dig out, and rebuild.

But that community wouldn’t be Santa Barbara. No, instead of focusing solely on their own current problems these residents of Santa Barbara County came together to support other local families — complete strangers — facing their own calamitous disaster: having a child battling cancer.

For the past 16 years, Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation (TBCF) has been helping families in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties living with pediatric cancer by providing crucially needed financial, educational, and emotional support.

On Feb. 27, TBCF marked its 4th Annual Santa Barbara Little Heroes Breakfast, a program that featured all the “Little Heroes” the organization has the privilege of helping each year.

This year, TBCF celebrated sisters Maddy and Jocelyn Gonzalez, a patient who inspired her older sibling to become an advocate for children with cancer and then — once strong from battling this horrific disease — joined her in her efforts.

Keynote speaker and performer, Caly Bevier of America’s Got Talent Season 11 and a fellow pediatric cancer survivor, told her own story with a combination of humor, honesty, emotion, and the uplifting sentiment that, despite the horrendous experience of cancer, Little Heroes can still lead a fulfilling life.

Bevier’s performance was special because one of her biggest fans, last year’s TBCF Little Hero Eliana Gorges, quietly sang along from her seat in the audience as Bevier performed Rachel Platten’s life-affirming anthem, Fight Song.

“It’s hard to believe that there was a point where we considered cancelling this event, but the response we received was just incredible,” said Matthew Fish, Little Heroes Breakfast co-chair and TBCF Board member.

Co-chair and fellow board member, Adriana Mezic, said, “I love this community. I am brokenhearted that evils like cancer don’t take time off to let us rebuild.

"I am angry that cancer affects children in this community every single day, but I choose to rise above my own sadness and push through these hard times to help TBCF kids and their families who are in critical need of our support, despite what the world will throw at us.”

The residents of Santa Barbara appear to agree, as shown by their support and generosity.

Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation thanks Advocate Bear sponsors Igor and Adriana Mezic of AIMdyn, Inc.; Rabobank, LogicMonitor, Inc.; and Wells Hughes of Arlington Financial Services.

Thanks also to Healer Bear sponsors Peggy and Nathan Rogers; Bryant and Sons; Jim Crook of Milpas Motors; Jeff and Margo Baker Barbakow; and Jackson National Life Insurance.

Appreciation goes to volunteer table captains: Heather Ayer, Adam Black, Justin Dees, David Edelman, Emilee Garfield, J. Paul Gignac, Jamie Hansen, Wells Hughes, Stephanie Marasciullo, Ambia McLaughlin, Gay Milligan, Marnie Pinsker.

Steve Pinsker, Dick Pool, Rich Schuette, Michael Taylor, Leifur Thordarson, Brigitte Welty, Pat Weeks and Nick Weiser.

Learn more about the event at http://www.teddybearcancerfoundation.org/littleheroes-santabarbara.

For tickets or to sponsor this event, or to volunteer to help TBCF programs and kids, visit www.teddybearcancerfoundation.org or call 962-7466.

— Lauren Pinsker for Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation.


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