Weekend storms couldn’t stop charity fundraiser
by Mike Parks
Marvin Elementary student Isabella Santos didn’t exactly lead the way Saturday, Sept. 24, at her 5K fundraiser run at Ballantyne Corporate Park. But she sure did lead the dancing afterward.
The 6-year-old has battled neuroblastoma since she was 2, but that doesn’t mean she’s not like every other little girl her age. Isabella is split on her favorite color (either pink or purple), loves arts and crafts, knows the words (and dance moves) to Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus songs and considers Ariel of “The Little Mermaid” as her favorite Disney princess.
And when her favorite song, Beyonce’s “All the Single Ladies,” boomed out across the crowded, rain-soaked dance floor Saturday morning, people made way for Isabella to show off her dance moves with old classmates and friends.
“It’s hard to put into words,” said Isabella’s mother, Erin, when asked what the outpouring of support meant to her. Much of the Santos’ extended family attended Saturday, along with hundreds of community members. Many found themselves huddled together under a large canopy after lightning cancelled the children’s fun run portion of the event.
The downpours held off long enough for the 5K, where Isabella helped bring up the rear, pulled by her dad, Stewart, in a little red wagon that matched her bright red hair. Isabella and her dad eventually had to make a mad dash for the finish line as lightning started cracking, though much of the crowd waited under umbrellas to cheer for Isabella as her day carried her the final few yards.
“To have everyone come out… we couldn’t do it without them,” Erin Santos said afterward.
The money raised Saturday goes to the Isabella Santos Foundation, which supports neuroblastoma research. The money also helps families with children suffering from cancer.
It’s a life the Santos family has lived for four years now, and those watching Isabella dance Saturday likely wouldn’t realize the girl recently had a full-body relapse and returned to chemotherapy and radiation treatments this week. A doctor will soon see how those treatments went and let the family know their options. Erin Santos is holding out hope for some good news.
And while they wait, the family continues advocating for the foundation bearing their daughter’s name. Erin Santos announced to the crowd Saturday that thousands of dollars had been raised online before the event even kicked off. Totals aren’t in yet, but last year’s event raised $55,000.
People wanting to join the cause can do so even if they missed the 5K. Find more information at the foundation’s website, www.isabellasantosfoundation.com.