Never Giving Up in the Fight Against Pediatric Cancer

By Giving List Staff   |   January 2, 2021

At age 12, Axel Penaloza was diagnosed with brain cancer. 

“I was so scared,” Penaloza says. “I was thinking, why is this happening to me? I just want to go to school and be free from cancer.” 

He was not alone in his fears. His older brother suffered as he saw his little brother go through treatment, and his parents – both first generation Americans from Mexico– struggled to manage the unknown that is a cancer diagnosis. 

Thankfully, there was a nonprofit to help them: Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation (TBCF). TBCF provides three core programs aimed at supporting children and their families through pediatric cancer: financial, emotional, and educational support.

Low and moderate-income families residing in Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo can receive up to $5,000 for expenses at the time of an initial cancer diagnosis. “A cancer diagnosis is an incredible economic hit,” says TBCF board member Sheela Hunt. Additionally, up to $2,500 is available to families whose child relapses after their cancer treatment. In the most tragic moments imaginable, TBCF will cover funeral costs of up to $2,500.

Through its emotional support program, Teddy Bear provides family counseling groups, events aimed at family connection, and “care for the caregivers” like a Mother’s Spa Day. Anything to bring some normalcy in such a horrific time for a family.

Finally, the organization helps children regain their feet in school. Not only do children miss days for treatment, but treatment can also cause cognitive delays. TBCF provides up to $1,000 for tutoring and covers the cost of neuropsychological testing, so that children who experience cognitive issues can get the help they need in school. 

For the Penaloza family, this enveloping support helped get their boy through. Now, 14, Axel wants to be an inspiration for all the children fighting cancer today. 

“I know it takes a long time, but I struggled and struggled with all my heart, and I tried everything and did not give up,” he says. “Now I am free from cancer. 

“Say to yourself, ‘I will never give up.’ Say it so loud that everyone can hear you. You can do this. Never, never, never give up.”


Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation


Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation supports families living in Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo counties that have a child with cancer by providing financial, educational, and emotional support.
We support the entire family when their child has cancer.
​Our programs allow parents to focus on what matters most, their child’s well-being, during one of the most difficult times of their child’s young life.

Begin to Build a Relationship

We know you care about where your money goes and how it is used. Connect with this organization’s leadership in order to begin to build this important relationship. Your email will be sent directly to this organization’s Director of Development and/or Executive Director.

Giving Back

After 30+ years working in the Aerospace industry, I just released my first children’s book, Dragons on the Purple Moon. Our son survived brain cancer in 2017 and I wanted to give back. After moving to Santa Barbara, I looked for an organization aligning with my vision of bringing joy and happiness to children with cancer. Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation was an excellent choice – they provide financial, emotional, and educational support that is extremely important for families during this time.
– Peter Martin

Helping Families Now, Forever

Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation serves more than 800 individuals every year. Incredibly, they do this with a budget of $1.2 million. In 2021, TBCF will step up outreach to hospitals so they can help even more families.
Teddy Bear needs your help. You can sponsor a family for $5,000, provide relapse or funeral funds for a family for $2,500, or pay for tutoring for a child for $1,000. TBCF is completely funded through the generosity of community members, and any amount helps.
And if you believe, as we do, that TBCF needs to be serving the region for years to come, visit its planned giving page – – and consider a bequest

Board of Directors

J. Paul Gignac, Board Chair
Nathan Rogers, Vice Chair
David Edelman, Treasurer
Carolyn Shepard Baham,Secretary
Rich Schuette, Immediate Past Board Chair
Adam Black
Tyler Dobson
Joe Ferreira
Matthew Fish
Tom Fisher
Jamie Hansen
Sheela Hunt
Rebecca Koch
Tony Vallejo
Maria Wilson