Since its inception in 2002, Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation (TBCF) has provided emotional, educational and comprehensive non-medical financial support for families whose children are diagnosed with cancer, both during treatment and into recovery in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo. While it’s a regional-focused foundation, TBCF can provide local families with more financial assistance than any other organization in the nation.
Since Nikki Katz founded the nonprofit more than 15 years ago, TBCF has helped more than a thousand individuals and awarded over $1.8M in financial assistance to families who have a child with cancer.
Low- and moderate-income families can receive up to $5,000 for living expenses such as rent, groceries, car expenses or hotel accommodations near the hospital. For children who relapse, families can request an additional $2,500. The foundation serves children from birth to age 18, or, if diagnosed after 18 years old, until they turn 21.
“With a disease as life-threatening as cancer, when it comes to caring for a child, parents shouldn’t have to make the decision to be at their child’s bedside when they are sick or be at work. That’s why Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation exists: to alleviate the financial and emotional challenges so that parents can focus on what matters most— their child,” says Executive Director Lindsey Leonard. “Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation helps families—through their donors‘ enduring, generous support—to alleviate the financial and emotional strains experienced while caring for a child battling cancer. By supporting the family and covering payments of critical expenses including rent, utilities and car payments, plus educational assistance, it supports the physical and emotional needs of the children and their families to help children overcome learning challenges commonly associated with cancer and its treatment.”
TBCF devotes a significant portion of their programs to emotional support through family support groups, realizing that children and families face many challenges after a cancer diagnosis. In partnership with local organizations and licensed professionals, TBCF offers groups for families whose child is newly diagnosed or undergoing treatment and bereavement support for those experiencing the loss of a child. They also provide childcare for younger children during support groups.
Realizing that the stress of caring for a sick child is exhausting and isolating, TBCF hosts events, such as Mother’s Spa Day, to provide rest and rejuvenation for parents. Bear Necessities, another support group, provides families with furniture, appliances, clothing, bedding and hospital care packages. Family Fun Days are another important component of emotional wellness and can include excursions to sporting events and the children’s pediatric holiday party.
Families of children in treatment can receive Christmas gifts, Easter baskets, Thanksgiving dinners, valentine baskets, grocery vouchers and, of course, lots of stuffed teddy bears to hug, all filled with love by donors whose generous support provide all these items and programs.
For more information, call 805/962-7466 or visit teddybearcancerfoundation.org.
This story was originally published in the spring 2018 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.