Racing toward a cure

Community members are rallying for the sixth straight year to raise money for pediatric cancer research in the name of Isabella Santos through the annual 5K for Kids Cancer.

Isabella Santos (above, center) dances to one of her favorite Beyonce songs following a past 5K for Kids Cancer event in Ballantyne. This year’s event will take place Sept. 21.

Isabella Santos (above, center) dances to one of her favorite Beyonce songs following a past 5K for Kids Cancer event in Ballantyne. This year’s event will take place Sept. 21.

The event takes place Sept. 21, a Saturday, in Ballantyne Corporate Park, 13860 Ballantyne Corporate Place in Charlotte. The 5K begins at 8 a.m., followed by a one-mile fun run for kids at 9 a.m.

In addition to the races, the 5K for Kids Cancer also will feature a “kid zone” with activities for children, raffle prizes, a photo booth, face painting, crafts and a silent auction. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Isabella Santos Foundation.

The foundation is named for Isabella Santos, a Waxhaw girl who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma – a malignant tumor stemming from nerve tissue – at age 2 and died in June 2012, at age 7. Isabella’s family launched the nonprofit to raise money for neuroblastoma research, as well as organizations like the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte, which support children battling cancer and other illnesses.

The 5K for Kids Cancer started prior to Isabella’s death as a small fundraiser with just a couple hundred people, according to Maitland Danner, with the Isabella Santos Foundation. But Isabella’s story and legacy have fueled a contagion among members of the community, and the number of people who’ve turned out for the event has doubled each year, Danner said. The event is held annually in September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

“People continue to return each year,” she said, adding the event doubled from 1,000 participants in 2011 to more than 2,000 in 2012, raising $200,000 for the foundation. “It was the first (5K) since Isabella’s passing … This coming year, we expect to meet that (number of people), if not surpass it.”

The main new element of this year’s event is how the silent auction is conducted. Instead of simply hosting the auction at the event on the same day, the auction will be held online for several days. Starting Wednesday, Sept. 18, people will be able to go online and place bids. A link to the website was not available by press deadline.

The auction continues through the day of the 5K for Kids Cancer and closes at the end of the event. People can continue to bid via their phones until the auction closes. They’ll also receive messages when they’ve been outbid, giving them real-time updates on the items they want to win.

Hosting the auction this way has several benefits, Danner said. It gives bidders a sense of privacy so they don’t feel they have to “keep hovering over a piece of paper,” she said. This also eliminates the awkwardness of bidding against friends, she added.

The online silent auction also allows people across the country to place bids. For instance, a Florida resident wishing to win tickets to a Miami Dolphins game – one of the prizes being auctioned – can bid on the tickets without leaving his or her house.

“It opens up the items to people across the nation,” Danner said. “There are people in Miami following the (Isabella Santos) Foundation.”

Another new addition – a “Wishes with Molly” tent, featuring WBTV news anchor Molly Grantham – will give kids the chance to honor children fighting cancer by writing wishes on clouds.

Danner said the foundation’s main goal for this year’s 5K – aside from recruiting a record-breaking number of participants and raising additional funds for the organizations it supports – is to make it an event families can enjoy, while honoring Isabella’s legacy.

“I would just love for people to leave this event and feel like they had such a wonderful time, and have Isabella … and just all the other little children like her on their mind,” she said. “I want them to feel good about the cause that they just supported, and hope they continue to support it.”

Find more information, register and check for updates on the silent auction at Race participants are encouraged to wear purple – Isabella’s favorite color and the trademark color of the foundation.

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