Dreaming Big Takes Families Facing Pediatric Cancer From Surviving to Thriving
Source: Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation
Each September, Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation (TBCF) invites the community to join them in celebrating National Childhood Cancer Awareness month through their Gold Ribbon Campaign. The community’s participation noticeably demonstrates that families fighting pediatric cancer are not alone. That they live within a community of compassionate allies who are united in solidarity with TBCF in a collective effort to fight for the most precious among us, our children.
While these little heroes are in a daily fight with an unfair and cruel disease, their parents are navigating frequent doctor’s appointments, substantial medical bills, geographically scattered and distant hospital stays, academic struggles for the child in treatment (and their other children), and a host of other relentless stressors. TBCF’s Gold Ribbon Campaign elevates this harsh reality to the consciousness of our community in order to raise awareness and mobilize an effective and compassionate response to the adversities faced by local families.
COVID-19 only added to the adversities of these families’ traumatic experience with the additional challenges of lost income, food insecurity, and loss of access to vital resources as most supportive organizations restricted or decreased their programs. Moreover, most apparent was the extreme anxiety of keeping an immunocompromised child safe throughout the day during a global pandemic. Parents watched television and witnessed healthy people dying of Covid, knowing that their child is at greater risk, only added an unimaginable new layer of terror. Happily, thanks to the support of the tri-county community TBCF was able to answer a call-to-action by accessing their “Special Circumstances Fund” to provide families with additional financial assistance, as well as gift over $37,000 in gift cards, groceries cards and gas vouchers to families. TBCF also pivoted their in-person emotional support groups to be held virtually, and in doing so was able to double the number of supports groups offered each month. TBCF doubled the number of families who received special deliveries for Project Christmas, Project Valentine’s Day, and Project Easter, all of which instilled much needed holiday spirit and moments of joy.
The past year demonstrated that big adversity requires big dreams, and this year TBCF is asking the community to not only be aware of and support the families they serve, but also to Dream Big with them so that they can take their families from surviving to thriving. With the catalyst of generous seed capital to purchase a building, they are focused on playing a more critical role in filling the gaps in service. As a mission-driven organization, they are in the process of encouraging their families to Dream Big, and TBCF will attempt to weave the family dreams into their new space. There are a number of ways that the community can join in the Gold Ribbon Campaign and raise awareness and funds. TBCF is hoping the community will Dream Big as they sound a call to action to help the families they serve find a pathway toward experiencing and achieving their big dreams.
Ariya Ramos, The Face of TBCF’s Gold Ribbon Campaign, 2021
TBCF is proud to announce Ariya Ramos as this year’s featured child of the 2021 Gold Ribbon Campaign. TBCF will share and honor her uplifting story as a way of spreading positive light during this difficult time amidst a global health crisis.
In May of 2018, vibrant, three-year-old Aryia complained of stomach pains. She stopped eating, couldn’t sleep and cried often. After numerous doctor visits she wasn’t improving. Ariya’s mother asked for an ultrasound, and it was then that an abnormality on her liver was discovered. A CT scan revealed that Aryia had a softball-sized tumor in her stomach. This news came just three months after her parents had purchased their first home.
Ariya’s family was sent from their home in Santa Maria to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where she was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a form of childhood cancer. The family began their battle and spent the next six months undergoing chemotherapy in Los Angeles every three weeks. The emotional and physical stress of chemotherapy was difficult, not withstanding the additional stress of traveling back and forth to LA every 3 weeks. Fortunately, doctors were able to remove 90% of Ariya’s tumor with resections, but she lost most of one kidney.
Brave Aryia endured two stem cell transplants, twelve days of radiation and six months of immunotherapy before celebrating her victory with an End-of-Chemo party in 2019! She is currently in maintenance and is a bright ball of energy! In 2020 she was able to share her light with TBCF’s kids’ support groups and virtual events.
Naturally, during her treatment, bills piled up and her parents were gifted $4,250 in Direct Financial Assistance from TBCF to help alleviate some of their stress so that they could focus on Ariya’s care. Aryia received tutoring from TBCF and will be receiving another $1,500 of support to cover the cost of neuropsychological testing this fall. We are confident she will be successful going into first grade so that she can achieve her big dreams of becoming a paleontologist, veterinarian, nurse and doctor!
Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation advocates for families living in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties that have a child with cancer by providing financial, educational, and emotional support. For more information and to donate, please visit their website at TeddyBearCancerFoundation.org.