A Letter from the Founder & CEO
Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to our incredible supporters!
Walk With Sally has been on a mission in 2015, growing our program and services to children impacted by cancer. Despite the cancellation of White Light White Night 1.0 we were able to weather the storm, hitting major milestones, and continuing the tremendous expansion of our free mentoring program to help more kids throughout LA County. A few highlights to note and places your support has enabled us to really make an impact in 2015:
We partnered with LA Unified School District and now from East LA to the Westside, we have more families than ever that need our services. We added a new Spanish-speaking Program Coordinator to meet the demands and the demographics of our growing population in the Hispanic communities. We updated our logo, marketing, and website to better connect with our supporters and to grow our Southern California outreach. As a result of this growth, our need for more mentors has increased as well. We are also making our financials more accessible and easy to read on the website. Check out our FAQ and transparency pages, as well as our update Guide Star profile.
Lastly, I want you to know that Walk With Sally is and will continue to be one child at a time. Managing fifty-two friendships is an important responsibility, and we understand that Cancer changes everything. We are committed to making these friendships last a lifetime while our Program Team offers a lifeline of financial support, resources and friendship activities to create a bigger community.
As you gather together over the holidays with family and friends, pat yourselves on the back and give gratitude for all we have. Thank you for making Walk With Sally, impactful, dynamic, and ready for big things in 2016.
My deepest thank you for your continued support,
Walk With Sally
Will & Rocco
Over the past year Walk With Sally has worked very hard to expand our services throughout Los Angeles County. This included strengthening partnerships with school districts (Los Angeles Unified School District in particular) and other organizations, as well as hiring a bilingual program coordinator so that ALL families impacted by cancer can get the support they need. As a result we were able to match twenty seven children from all over the area with mentors.
Our mission is always to help the children who often struggle the most, but the friendships that are created through Walk With Sally help heal the mentor and the parents as well. Will and Rocco were matched in May of this year. After losing his father to cancer a couple of years ago, Will joined the mentoring program to help kids with a similar story. He was matched with Rocco, 8 years old, whose mom is currently battling cancer. This is what Rocco, Will, and Danette had to say:
“Will is a good friend. He makes me feel happy and good about myself. I’m proud to have him as a friend. We have fun and he is special.”
“I love Walk with Sally! Being a part of this community has allowed our family to schedule in some “fun” during this otherwise extremely difficult time. It has provided us an opportunity to relax and enjoy each other as well as meet new friends, when our regular daily lives have been filled with pain, anxiety, and sadness. As a family, we ALL feel loved and supported and really look forward to releasing all of our stress and just having a great time together. And the relationship with my son and his mentor has been amazing! Their friendship helped my son find happiness again in his life and for that I will forever be grateful. Having a special friend who understands him has been invaluable in his healing process. He can count on him and knows he is there for him. It is the little things that matter the most, and for my son and our family, the stability and consistency of friendship, love and support has helped us all to heal and enjoy ourselves in the process.”
-Danette, Rocco’s Mom
“I have not only established a relationship with Rocco, but I have established a relationship with the whole family. I can be a supportive influence for Rocco’s mom the same way people were there for my dad as he battled his disease.
There is no doubt that I have developed a special connection with Rocco. But as much as I have tried to give, I have received more from my relationships with Rocco and Walk with Sally. As a 6 foot 6, 300 pound offensive linemen in the NFL, I have often felt the pressure to demonstrate a stoic persona. But through my time with Walk with Sally, I have been able to reflect and express the emotions that I felt with losing my father. And whenever I drop Rocco off at home, and he gives me that infectious smile and I hug his mom, I know we are all in this together.”
-Will, Rocco’s Mentor
A WWS Mentee’s Story
Marley, 12 years old, has been a part of Walk With Sally since June 2015. She came to us after her school counselor reached out concerned about how her mom’s breast cancer diagnosis had been affecting her. We soon matched her with Kara, who had a similar story. Together they have formed a relationship that has helped Marley cope with the struggles that cancer can cause.
She, like many of the children in our program, experienced a variety of feelings – anxiety, guilt, sadness. Here, Marley describes what it was like for her to learn about her mom’s cancer. This gives insight into what it’s like for the kids in Walk With Sally to go through this experience:
“Cancer is the worst, right? I was 8 and had no idea what in the world this word meant. My mom explained it to me as: “Mommy is sick, she will get better.” As time passed I decided that I wanted to learn more about my mother’s never ending sickness. The definition that I got was: A disease in which abnormal cells divide uncontrollably and destroy body tissue. My mind was spinning. My body filled with chills. I came home and asked my mother, “Mommy do you have Cancer?” She gave me the most scared and frightened look I had ever seen on anyone. “Umm… why do you ask, honey.” “Because I saw the book you were reading.” She gave me a chuckle, one I would hardly ever hear again. We sat on the couch and she explained everything. I understood. I was always seen in my family as the strong one. This was the one thing that I could not keep myself from crying. I had no idea what was going to happen. What was I going to do?
The end of 5th grade came and so did summer. The day that I dreaded came. My aunt dropped my mom off at the hair salon, I was nervous to see how she would look without hair. It scared me. Her friend dropped her back off at home; my eyes welled up with tears. Her hair was all gone and it was all because of the stupid, stupid disease.
My mother is the strongest person I have ever met. She tells me that she kept fighting for me. She hated taking those pills every single day another, and another. Finally, the day came, the day that made me burst out in tears there is still that little bit of hope.
Have you ever had something that you so badly wanted to get rid of? I have, and it wasn’t even mine. C-A-N-C-E-R. The thing about it is you never fully get rid of it. But of course The end, that was it. Completely over. The cancer. There was no more of it. My mother was completely Cancer FREE. But it still meant that she had a higher chance of it coming back. The only thing I was worrying about was that “cancer free” might only be temporary. Apparently this was not the end of the pain. More pills, surgeries, injections, and blood being drawn. Thinking that it was over was the least of it.
Become a Mentor
This year has been filled with new mentors and new matches, but as we expand the program the need for mentors grows. We currently have 15 kids across Los Angeles and Orange County, just waiting to be matched. If you’re interested in becoming a mentor, then I encourage you to get involved in the New Year! The below story is just one of many…
Kenny is 11 years old and is located in the downtown Los Angeles area. He was referred to us by his school counselor. Kenny has had a hard time dealing with his dad’s terminal diagnosis. His mother has been very busy being the primary caregiver to his dad and siblings, and his two twin brothers have been relying on each other for support. Kenny is quiet and sweet boy, with a love of Old Westerns. He feels alone and isolated and could benefit from a mentor who can give him the attention he needs.
A Year of Friendship Activities
Each quarter Walk With Sally hosts free-of-charge group activities for all friendships, families, and prospective families in our program. The goal is to offer an educational and experiential day-long event while offering Walk With Sally participants a sense of community. This year we were able to provide unique and memorable activities including: The Gentle Barn, Stand-Up Paddle Boarding, and Surf Lessons with the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation. We also organized other special activities – Dodger Night, a Galaxy Game, the Nutcracker, just to name a few.
Our latest Friendship Activity took place at K Club Fast Pitch Softball facility in El Segundo. Kids and mentors came in their Halloween costumes and part in a day filled with batting cages, karaoke, hip-hop dancing, meditation, Pilates, and arts and crafts.
Regardless of the event, each day is finished with our closing circle. We discuss highlights of the day, hand out awards, and most importantly we address why we are all gathered together. Everyone in our program has been impacted by cancer, but the Friendship Activities remind them they are not alone.
for the Holidays
Thanks to the generous donations of various community members and organizations we were able to provide gifts and assistance to ELEVEN of our newest families. This included gifts and gift cards to restaurants, grocery stores, and other specialty stores.
Wanting to provide gifts to your children but at the same time, being worried about how to pay your electric bill or car payment can weigh heavily on our parents and guardians. In an effort to alleviate this stress, Walk With Sally partners with members of the community to create a memorable and happy holiday season. Thank you to the following companies and individuals for their support and donations:
From one WWS Parent:
“I am beyond grateful for the abundant gifts that were bestowed on us today. I have a hard time accepting goodwill without feeling obligated to give or do something in return. Please let the generous soul know that we are so thankful for the gifts and intend on paying it forward. Pass along the message that this gesture has made us cry tears of JOY, which I can’t remember the last time I did that. We would love so much to be in a position to be able to do something like this for a family touched by cancer. Thank you for allowing us to be part of the Walk with Sally family.”
This year we were able to help ELEVEN families, but it is our goal to provide Hope for the Holidays to EVERY family in our program. We cannot achieve this without the support of our community. If you are interested in sponsoring/donating to a WWS family for 2016’s Hope for the holidays, please email our Program Director, Nikki deBaroncelli [email protected]
And a very special THANK YOU to the Employees Community Fund of Boeing California (ECF CA). With this grant (which is 100% Boeing employee donations), we are able to provide $500 to THREE families experiencing financial hardship. This support is intended to help WWS families focus on their health and recovery instead of worrying about paying for rent, gas, food, and medical bills.
Walk With Sally Chosen to Receive
Thank You Tower Cancer Research Foundation
& Ludwick Family Foundation
This year we are honored to be the recipient of TWO prestigious grants from The Tower Cancer Research Foundation (TCRF) and Ludwick Family Foundation. As we continue our growth we look to incredible organizations like these two foundations to help us in achieving our mission.
Walk With Sally is thrilled to be receiving a $50,000 Community Partner grant from TCRF. This funding will assist in our efforts to reach Los Angeles’s Latino community. We also received $25,000 from the Ludwick Family Foundation, which will be used to improve WWS’s technology in order to better serve our mentors, mentees, and families.
9th Annual Bowl-A-Thon
Did you know each new friendship costs around $5,000 in their first year? We are dedicated to matching 3 friendships per month and currently have 15 kids on our waiting list, thanks to our new partnership with LAUSD. So we need your fundraising help this year more than ever so we can keep up with the demand!
Want to know how you can give back? Create your own fundraising team for our 9th Annual Bowl-A-Thon on Saturday, March 12th at 12:00 p.m. Each team of 4-6 people fundraises from now until March, and then you can celebrate your accomplishments alongside our mentors and mentees in a very fun afternoon of bowling, food, prizes and more! This year’s theme is Superheroes in honor of the mentors who are superheroes in their daily lives.
So whether you want to be Spiderman or Wonder Woman, get your team signed up today and start fundraising to support our fabulous friendships that truly make a difference in the lives of families impacted by cancer.
Click Here to get more information or sign up today!
Mark Your Calendars
Important Dates in the Coming Months
Mentor Appreciation Mixer & Friendraiser – January 21st
- January Mentor Training – January 23rd
- FTK Mixer – February 11th
- Friendship Activity – February 27th
Bowl A Thon – March 12th