A young guest eyes a treat at the Canyon Country Optimists Family Picnic on Sunday Sept. 7, 2019. Gilbert BernalThe Signal

Canyon Country Optimists Club hosts picnic for pediatric cancer families to connect and relax

Cancer takes a toll on both those afflicted with the disease and their families, so the Canyon Country Optimists Club wanted to find a way to help ease that burden if only for an afternoon.

On Sunday, the Canyon Country Optimists Club hosted a picnic for  the Michael Hoefflin Foundation and the families they serve who have or are currently dealing with pediatric cancer.

“These parents and families go through a lot so I thought it would be nice if they could just come and have a fun day with their child that’s ill as well as their siblings,” said Vivian Lawrence, president of the Optimists Club, which raises funds and hosts community events to help improve the lives of children. “We thought we would only have 40 people, but I was very surprised to learn that 100 people had signed up. This is the first time we’ve done this and I hope we can make it an annual event.”

(Left to right: Heather Holloway, Cathy Hicks, Sue Hoefflin, Vivian Lawrence, Anita Seibert, Jillian Stone, and Lety Garcia) Santa Clarita Optimist Foundation and Canyon Country Optimist Club present the Michael Hoeflin Foundation with a donation to benefit programing, resources and support at the Canyon Country Optimists Family Picnic on Sunday Sept. 7, 2019. Gilbert Bernal\The Signal

As part of the event, the Optimists Club donated $3,900 to the Michael Hoefflin Foundation. The funds will be used to support some of the foundation’s programs and to purchase supply kits for the families they serve. Beyond the monetary benefit to the foundation, the social aspect of the picnic was of great importance to the families.

“For a lot of the families, events like this are the only time the have to get out and socialize because so much of their lives are centered around the hospital or home, they’re housebound and can’t always go where other people are depending on the stage of the disease,” said Gillian Stone, executive director of the Michael Hoefflin Foundation. “It’s very isolating to have a child with pediatric cancer, so events like this picnic give families an opportunity to connect with others who have some of the same experiences.”

Jonathan Toma, whose daughter is in remission, attended the picnic with his family because he said he wanted to help support the Hoefflin Foundation’s mission to help other families battling the disease. 

“Some families are just starting treatment, and we’re lucky enough to say our daughter is pretty much done with this whole thing so we have a lot of experience that we like to share with other families,” Toma said. “When we were starting treatment, we had no idea what resources there were or what questions to ask. Organizations like this are good for the community because you don’t get all the information at the hospital, and it’s good to hear other people talk about what worked for them.”

Chris Hoefflin, who founded the Michael Hoefflin Foundation, said he’s grateful for the partnership between both charities and said such collaborations only serve to strengthen the brotherhood within Santa Clarita.

“There’s a certain charitable, compassionate spirit in Santa Clarita, and when organizations come together, it builds a fabric within the community,” Hoefflin said. “We don’t want to nudge any charity out with the work that we do, and it’s important to keep that fabric strong because it helps remind the people of the community to be charitable.”

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