Scottsdale nonprofit offers support for those fighting pediatric cancer

The Arizona Cancer Foundation for Children offers support for those fighting a pediatric cancer diagnosis. (Submitted photo)

No caring parent deserves to hear the words, “your child has cancer,” but every day the stark reality of a serious medical diagnosis is one many parents are forced to cope with.

Pediatric cancer is a plague that does not discriminate between any ethnic or socioeconomic background, experts say, noting that oftentimes one out of five American children diagnosed with cancer will succumb to a variation of the disease.

The average age of a child diagnosed with cancer is 6-years-old, meanwhile every day in the United States 36 children are diagnosed with cancer, according to the Arizona Cancer Foundation for Children.

In Arizona a child is diagnosed with cancer every single day, and often times receive the news prior to the age of 20.

“The mission of Arizona Cancer Foundation for Children (ACFC) is to provide social, emotional and financial support directly to families who are managing the health and well-being of a loved one with pediatric cancer,” said Arizona Cancer Foundation for Children President Chrisie Funari.

A view of Macie who is supported by the Arizona Cancer Foundation for Children, which is based in Scottsdale. (Submitted photo)

“There is nothing more frightening than hearing: ‘your child has cancer.’ You step back, close your eyes and try to take a breath. In this instant it seems as though life has been knocked out of you.”

The Arizona Cancer Foundation for Children was born from the strength of perseverance of Ms. Funari who lost her daughter, Ava, to neuroblastoma, which is an aggressive form of pediatric cancer, in 2012 following her diagnosis at 18 months of age.

Ava was almost 5-years-old when she passed away.

“You pull yourself together for your child and the rest of the family,” Ms. Funari said of her own experience and why she has chosen to help parents fight through the struggle of beating cancer.

“You must navigate a healthcare system that no one ever wants to traverse and do so with both strength and hope. This is the journey for more than 350 Arizona families each year — a cancer diagnosis impacts the entire family in so many ways; financially, socially, and emotionally.”

Ms. Funari points out the cancer fight is one that is a constant undertaking and is a financial struggle for many families battling through the diagnosis.

“A child undergoing cancer treatment spends days, weeks, sometimes months in the hospital, and the overall expense of having a child with cancer is often too much for families to handle,” she pointed out. “ACFC assists families with travel, medical, rent, and other expenses associated with, and impacted by, their child’s cancer diagnosis. Typical assistance is $500-$2,000.”

But it’s those long hospital stays that will deplete any family’s resources quickly and with health insurance premiums out-of-whack for those dealing with serious illness, Ms. Funari explains outside philanthropic support is vital.

And, that’s where the Scottsdale Charros come into the picture.

The Charro Foundation has provided the Arizona Cancer Center for Children, which is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, with a $2,750 grant this fiscal year meant to help with general operations of the effort.

“They are providing emotional and financial support to children with pediatric cancer,” said Scottsdale Charro Ben Hawkins in response to being asked why he chose to be a sponsor for the group’s grant application.

“I think it is important for children to keep up morale when undergoing chemotherapy/treatment and staying in the hospital. It is a very strange environment for a children to be transplanted into and a little comfort and fun goes a long way.”

For 56 years the Scottsdale Charros have been in constant pursuit of improving the lives of Scottsdale residents while preserving the community’s ties to its western heritage.

Mr. Hawkins says he has seen first-hand the impact the Cancer Foundation for Children has had for families dealing with, at times, dire situations.

“I agree with what they do and I like that they are a small charity operating on very low expenses and overhead. That means more of our money is going to the kids and families in need,” he said.

“I know it makes a difference. They have helped families that I know that are struggling with the process of treating pediatric cancer.”

Ms. Funari says the Scottsdale-based nonprofit seeks to ensure more children have a bright future no matter what hurdles are placed in front of them.

“No child should ever have to be diagnosed with cancer — our children are our future and are so important,” she said. “These families need our support right now. ACFC is continually thanked for our support.”

Ms. Funari says the Scottsdale Charros offer support for community members who need it the most.

“The Scottsdale Charro’s are an amazing organization that provide continued support to our community,” she said. “The support of the Scottsdale Charro’s make a significant impact in the Arizona Cancer Foundation for Children Assistance Program.”

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