Lightening the Load for Pediatric Cancer Families
In 2016, an estimated 10,000 children under 15 years of age in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer and about 12% will most likely die from the disease. Sadly, about 60% of the survivors will probably suffer subsequent medical issues later in their lives, such as heart failure, infertility and secondary cancers.
Jarren Donatini was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer just before age 3. For 18 months, he bravely battled, but ultimately lost his fight. Heather and Jason Donatini were devastated and overwhelmed by the loss of their son.
Determined to turn their pain into something positive to honor their son and at the same time help other families deal with the heavy emotional and financial issues they had faced through Jarren’s struggle, the Donatinis founded the BumbleBee Foundation in 2011. Since then, the 501c3 nonprofit has provided love and support to more than 100 pediatric cancer families in the Conejo Valley and surrounding areas, having spent over $150,000 to offset expenses for many of these families and raising awareness through special events held throughout the year.
As executive director of the BumbleBee Foundation, Heather handles the day-to-day operations of the growing organization, which she hopes will take hold nationwide.
“As the queen bee, I envision hives of caring, loving support throughout the country. Pediatric cancer families needn’t go through this alone,” says Heather.
BumbleBee provides limited financial support for families needing to cover basic needs, such as groceries, medical bills, gas and sometimes, rent. The foundation also focuses on helping to provide meals, transportation and comfort or counseling to caregivers of children who have cancer. Pediatric cancer affects all ethnic, gender and socioeconomic groups, and more than 40,000 children undergo treatment annually.
“Our focus is on the families in the trenches of the battle, whatever their backgrounds,” notes Heather. “Our desire is to lighten the burden for each of our BumbleBee families, even if only momentarily to allow them a chance to breathe. It is our goal to provide ongoing support when they need it most.”
The foundation offers help and support to anyone with a child under age 18 who has cancer.
“Whether the families need financial support or simply guidance, we’re here for them,” says Heather. “If we have to rally a community to raise funds, we will do that. If they want us to assist with memorial services, we can handle that for them.”
With the amount of work at hand, BumbleBee is always looking for volunteers, especially during fundraisers and in the spring and winter during their holiday “adoption” programs. This July 9 is the 5th Annual FUNraiser in Simi Valley, featuring a casino night with food, music, raffles and more. Contributions are tax-deductible.
So, how did the foundation get its name? It comes from their son’s love of one of the “Autobots” named “Bumblebee” in his favorite “Transformers” movie. The yellow robot transforms into a sleek, muscle car that Jarren adored. Shortly after his passing, Jarren’s parents discovered a drawing he had done at age 2. It was a bumblebee, which would become the organization’s logo.
To learn more about the BumbleBee Foundation, contact Heather Donatini at 805.493.2124 or visit BumbleBeeFoundation.org.