Three Growls For Grizzlies

The men gathered early – some shaven, some not – for the Third Annual Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation’s “Grizzlies Coming out of Hibernation Breakfast” held on Thursday, May 24 at Moby Dick on Stearns Wharf. Grizzlies Earl Armstrong and Steve Engles sponsored the 7 am breakfast; space was donated by Moby Dick owner Al Steinman.

St. Joseph High School (in Santa Maria) sophomore Kelsey Goeres, a Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation recipient, was diagnosed with cancer just a year ago and has undergone extensive treatment. She gave a poignant and upbeat talk about her ordeal during the Grizzly Bear gathering. Afterwards, Kelsey revealed that she fully expects to go back to doing the things she loves most: “acting, singing and occasional dancing.” She has appeared in PCPA productions of “Annie,” “Brigadoon,” “Oliver!,” and “Fiddler On The Roof”; she’s been performing ever since she entered junior high school in the seventh grade. Although her illness has prevented her from acting over the past 12 months, Kelsey has auditioned for PCPA’s upcoming Christmas Show and she says she is ready to take on a role again, even a demanding one.

The Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation is devoted to helping – usually financially – with “life’s daily responsibilities” that often seem particularly difficult to deal with after a parent learns their child has cancer. Those responsibilities include such mundane items as a month’s worth of prescription drugs, a mortgage payment, or yet another doctor’s bill. The initial amount of financial support the Foundation offered was $2,000, but founder Nikki Katz informs us during a recent conversation that, “we’ve just brought that up to five thousand this year.”

Nikki founded Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation in April 2003 and the Grizzly Bear concept, in which designated donors pledge a $500-a-year donation to the cause, was launched the following year. That first year, 11 grizzlies came forward to pledge monetary support. “Whenever we have special needs,” Nikki adds, “we’ve always been able to ask them.” Forty-eight grizzlies have now taken the pledge.

In addition to financial help, the foundation offers “support groups, family fun days, funeral funds, storytelling at the hospital, a mind and body strengthening program, and ‘little extras,’ depending upon the family’s needs. Teddy Bear covers three counties: Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo; the number of families being assisted financially is currently 44, and Teddy Bear offers services to a total of 130 families every month.

Families are selected via the Pediatric Oncology Group at Cottage Hospital, where Robyn Howard-Anderson coordinates the effort. “Robyn gives us their bills, and we pay their bills,” Nikki explains.

Those interested in becoming a grizzly and joining this group of mostly men, whose photos grace a wall at Moby Dick (women are welcome), can call 805-962-7466, or visit the website: www.teddybearcancerfoundation.org to learn more.

Memorial Day Mensch

In Yiddish, a mensch is “somebody good, kind, decent, and honorable,” and Montecito Journal herewith adjudicates (“orders with the power of legislation issued by a ruler or other person or group with authority”) James and Rose Marie Towle as “May’s Mensches of the Month” for this patriotic and stirring Memorial Day display outside the gates of their Casa del Sueno (“House of Peace”) in Montecito. The Towles’ estate was formerly the home of another noted patriot: actor/folksinger Burl Ives.