By Brandon Laue
Dealing with cancer is one of the most difficult things in life, and some people lack the proper support needed to take care of themselves.
Michael Hoefflin lived in Santa Clarita and was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 6. While he had a great support system for himself, he noticed that other kids around him did not. Michael had a dream to provide help to those in need.
While Michael unfortunately did not make it, passing away at the age of 10, his legacy lives on to this day. The Michael Hoefflin Foundation has helped 644 families, 385 of them still active, since its inception in 1995 and continues to grow, having helped 45 new families in 2018.
It was his dream that led to the creation of the Michael Hoefflin Foundation. MHF aims to provide many types of support to those in the greater SCV area dealing with childhood cancer.
“We help families in all aspects; social, financial and emotional,” said Lety Garcia, patient family liaison at MHF. Some events include a Mountasia family day, a photoshoot of all the kids for the Santa Clarita Magazine and an annual gala to name a few.
These events can provide a needed distraction for the kids. Fighting cancer means they don’t have many opportunities to go out and have fun, as they spend a lot of their time in and out of hospitals.
“The Michael Hoefflin Foundation impacted me in a very positive way. They contacted me at the beginning of my diagnosis and supported me through it all,” said Taryn Littleton, a former SCV resident who was diagnosed with cancer and has since finished treatment. “What stood out the most to me was their constant support in wanting to make my whole experience as comforting as possible.”
Having worked with hundreds of children diagnosed with cancer, MHF knows how to help the children and their families. They can provide counseling for patients and family members alike, and will always go out of their way to accomodate families in need.
“It was relieving knowing I had the support from people who have been helping out multiple kids through their cancer experiences,” said Littleton. “They knew how to make you comfortable. The organization brought a positive light in this time of my life knowing that I had support from not only friends and family, but from the outside world too.”
Having a child that is diagnosed with cancer is devastating for parents, too, and MHF offers some financial support and other help.
“Our former neighbor and friend, Shaunie Lebeouf, who is a representative from MHF, visited our home loaded with gifts and snacks for Taryn, including supermarket and gas station gift cards,” said Christine Littleton, mother of Taryn Littleton.
Driving to and from the hospital can end up costing a fortune in gas, so MHF donates gift cards to help cover these expenses. It can be a huge relief for parents worrying about the cost of medical bills on top of everything else.
Chemotherapy can cost thousands of dollars per cycle. While most of it can be covered by insurance, there is still a large sum that must be paid out of pocket. MHF can assist families with these payments, via various fundraisers. If a child passes away during treatment, MHF will assist with funeral arrangements and memorial gifts.
Their biggest fundraiser is the annual gala held every summer in Santa Clarita. At this event, they auction off anything from gift baskets to vacations all around the world, raising thousands of dollars for families in need. They also donate a portion of the funds towards cancer research, hoping to aid in the search for a cure.
Every year they also offer scholarships to a handful of cancer survivors who are involved with MHF. The recipient of the scholarship is asked to write a short essay about their journey, which provides them with an opportunity to reflect on their lives and provide words of encouragement for those who may just be getting started with their journeys.
“We were also extremely grateful when the Michael Hoefflin Foundation awarded Taryn a $500 scholarship in which she used towards her college education at Marymount Manhattan College,” said Christine.
The goal of MHF is to do as much as they can to help the families in need, and eventually find a cure so that they have no need to continue operating.
“We wish to continue helping our families and to be there for them,” said Garcia. “Hopefully we can continue donating our money to research so that one day we can be put out of business.”