Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation

By Lynda Millner   |   March 5, 2020
Teddy Bear board member Sheela Hunt with keynote speaker, doctor and clown Patch Adams and interim executive director Eryn Shugart

It was amazing how many people got up so early to come to breakfast with the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation (TBCF) at 7:30 am at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort. It was the 6th annual Little Heroes breakfast to raise funds for their programs helping families who have a child struck with cancer.

After wake-me-up coffee in the lobby we filled the ballroom to hear what TBCF does. Sponsor Stephen Watson welcomed the group and interim executive director Eryn Shugart reminded us, “There is no cure for cancer yet.” She introduced 8th grader Joanne Tudor who had a friend with cancer. Joanne has been performing on stage since age three. She wrote a song in honor of her friend, “Stronger Than You Know.” Hoping to empower other children with cancer, she sang her song for us and will donate all proceeds from the sale of her song to TBCF. It is available on Amazon.

Teddy Bear co-chairs Brittany Dobson, Matt Fish, and Heather Ayer

Keynote speaker was the outrageous Dr. Patch Adams. Some of you may remember seeing a 1998 movie (Patch Adams) about his life played by Robin Williams. Patch is a tall big guy. He reminded us that Williams was short, but the message was there. What I remember are the red clown noses he always wore to make people laugh. He still is.

Patch is a medical doctor but uses more humor than medicine to heal people. He has devoted over 40 years of his life to changing America’s healthcare system. He believes that laughter, joy, and creativity are an integral part of the healing process. With friends’ help he founded the Gesundheit Institute which is a project in holistic medical based on the belief that one cannot separate the health of the individual from the health of the family, the community, the society and the world.

Adams goes on clown trips regularly, has visited 139 countries and been in many war zones. He graduated from medical school in the ‘60s and was extremely upset at the medical field and its goal for money and reliance on medicine of all kinds. He eschews cell phones, “They aren’t smart phones, they are dumb phones.” He doesn’t use a computer, but hand writes a reply to all his mail which is thousands upon thousands. He claims that 70% of the reason people lose their homes is because of medical bills. He says, “I began clowning at age eight to keep the bullies away.” After living on military bases in Europe at 17 he moved to the south and was, “appalled by a water fountain that said, ‘For whites only.’”

Teddy Bear board president J. Paul Gignac and vice president Nathan Rogers

Patch believes that mental illness is due to loss of a tribal life – “the nuclear family is a bad idea. Also the loss of nature and arts. Love is never taught in school.” He recommends going to a gag store to find something that amuses you and will make people laugh.

The three co-chairs Heather Ayer, Matt Fish, and Brittany Dobson awarded the Little Hero Award to Jolie Ebadi who is a cancer survivor. She expressed how much TBCF meant to her. She has become an advocate for pediatric cancer awareness and speaks at various events.

Jeff Zamora was there to do the “ask” for funds but also told of his son’s tragic battle with cancer which he lost at age four and earned his angel wings. He told how his family was saved by everything that TBCF did for them, including paying bills and giving them a Christmas when they were too traumatized to do it. That was 12 years ago but the audience was in tears.

TBCF served a total of 197 families in 2019. Families receiving financial assistance were 55 and 120 received Project Holiday and more. They offer programs to lessen the immediate financial, emotional, and educational challenges while providing ongoing opportunities for families to connect with each other in a safe space.

TBCF’s next event is a Clam Bake at the Montecito Club Saturday, April 4 at 6 pm. Register at www.TeddyBearCancerFoundation.org/events. For help or information call 805.962.7466.


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