0825 LMT A1 Child Cancer Awareness Events

Two years have passed since the death of Bella Sanchez, a young child who suffered locally from childhood cancer. And the organization she helped build after her death is still as strong as ever.

In the midst of a year in which their operations were interrupted by the growing pandemic in 2020, Smiles From Heaven is working with others to host a golf tournament and other activities locally to raise awareness and funds for local parents who may through the same struggle Bella went through when she was sick.

Bella’s father, Ray Sanchez, is the founder of the organization, as he hopes to raise more money this time around after the pandemic last year contributed to a large number of people who also needed help.

One of the efforts is a charity golf tournament to be held on September 11 at the Casa Blanca Golf Course at 3900 Casa Blanca Rd.

“The September 11 golf tournament will be held in September as September is clearly the month of childhood cancer prevention, the month of the year when we try to organize as many awareness and fundraising events as possible for our programs,” said Sanchez. . “We’ve paired our nonprofit, Smiles From Heaven, with another nonprofit that I’ve also worked with, Heroes Sports, which makes it possible to take military personnel and veterans on hunting trips, skydiving, and the like. assist in their psychological process when returning from a conflict zone like Afghanistan, Iraq and similar places.”

The golf tournament is the first time that both organizations have collaborated on the same endeavor and project. They hope that the tournament will become an annual event between the two organizations.

“The money will be split between the two nonprofits,” Sanchez said. “What my nonprofit does is support local families and children affected by childhood cancer by providing fuel cards, lodging and hospital parties. We also offer support groups.”

Sanchez argues that this is the help many people need to not only provide medical care to their children, but also motivate them to continue fighting. He indicates that he would like to see this grow further in the city, so that people can continue the fight against cancer in young children.

“I see the need Laredo needs as we don’t have a pediatric cancer facility,” Sanchez said. “And what my nonprofit is doing or trying to do is fill the gap that insurance doesn’t cover like shelter, fuel and transportation for these kids who have to get out of town for their life-saving treatments because we don’t have any treatments in Laredo .”

As a combat veteran, Sanchez said he wanted to partner with Heroes Sports because that organization is personal to him too. He understands the stress veterans face when they return from a conflict zone, and he believes helping these veterans psychologically is a good way to assist these people in their cause.

“We’re keeping the funds local, and that’s the whole purpose of these organizations, as I know the need Laredo has,” Sanchez said. “So we keep the money here, and that’s good because other organizations will come to Laredo to raise money here, but then take them to Houston or wherever they go. And since this is our first 501(c)(3) organization, all donations are tax-deductible, and this is the first organization of its kind to benefit only the children of Laredo.”

“We are two years later, we have many families and there is a lot of need. And we need money, which is desperately needed.”

Sanchez says the lack of a pediatric cancer center in Laredo means his organization and others can continue to help people, as the area is understaffed in terms of medical facilities and treatment. He said the pandemic has also helped to show these needs for Laredo and also helped create a new battle when it came to families seeking public transportation for their sick children.

“One of the things we’ve seen from the bat is an increase in the transport portion,” Sanchez said. “Some of the local families who have a child with cancer say they can’t just take their child to the treatment facility because some of them took the Greyhound, which is clearly a form of public transportation that would take an immunocompromised child on a public bus. and coming and going for their cancer treatment is not a good option. That has been one of the struggles. I know we’ve helped them a lot with fuel cards, some transportation from the families there, and so we’ve seen a big increase in this.”

While Sanchez says many parents are wary of the pandemic and the COVID-19 virus — especially now that school has started again — he does state that childhood cancer is still the number 1 cause of death among this young population.

People can participate in the golf tournaments, individually or in a team of four. Individuals participating alone can do so by donating $150 to the charity and teams can do so by donating $500.

Sanchez states that there will also be some cash prizes for the winners of the tournament.

The Smiles From Heaven and Heroes Sports golf tournament isn’t the only charity event that Sanchez’s organization hosts in September. He also said there are some other events, such as the Sept. 4 bike ride to show solidarity with children with cancer, the Sept. 18 shave-a-thon, where law enforcement and others join forces with the organization through their heads, and a butterfly release on September 25, held to honor all fallen children of the chronic disease.

All money raised during these events will be used for other activities the organization does throughout the year, such as the Thanksgiving dinner in November and the Christmas gift giveaway in December.

“I would like to invite the people who don’t know us to follow us on social media or follow our website and stay in touch with us about the things we do for the pediatric cancer community, as I know Laredo – which is not the case. a secret that the city is medically understaffed — and these kids need more help from Laredoans and the county, and our long-term goal is to have a children’s ward someday,” Sanchez said.

For more information about the golf event or the Smiles From Heaven organization, please contact Sanchez at 956-337-8967 or email ray.sanchez@smilesfromheaventx.org.

jorge.vela@lmtonline.com

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