The Spirit Of Joy

Los Cabos Children’s Foundation supports multiple cancer organizations in Baja
BY: PHIL GOODE

Since it was established 15 years ago, the Los Cabos Children’s Foundation has invested $15 million USD in local programs that help improve children’s quality of life, with a focus on health. But unlike most other non-profits, which raise money for their own programs, the LCCF uses the donations it gets to support and strengthen other community programs.

The Gazette will be featuring the 26 LCCF grantees for 2017-18, profiling each organization and the work they do. In this issue, we are featuring the organizations that focus on helping children with cancer, all part of the LCCF’s Spirit of Joy program. These include four Baja California Sur organizations: The Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Unit of the Salvatierra Hospital in La Paz, Baja California Against Childhood Cancer, Casa Valentina Shelter, and the BCS Cancer Registry.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in children between 5 and 14 years in BCS. Between 2005 and 2009, Baja was the state with the highest incidence of cancer in children and teens. 90 percent of these cases are curable if detected early, and 75 percent of children survive at least five years after starting treatment.

Since the beginning, LCCF has provided support to initiatives related to this disease, including:

The Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Unit at Salvatierra Hospital When LCCF began in 2003, 60 children with cancer in BCS had to go to mainland Mexico, and even outside of the country, to receive treatment. BCS was the only state in Mexico that didn’t have an adequate cancer treatment center, and there was no pediatric oncology specialist.

In 2012, Dr. Eduardo Altamirano moved from Sinaloa to BCS to begin treating children in La Paz. In 2013, the Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Unit (UHOP, when abbreviated in Spanish) at Salvatierra Hospital in La Paz was started, providing children with medical treatment while allowing them to remain close to their homes and families. Having a cancer treatment center in Baja also resulted in more timely cancer diagnoses, saving the lives of several local children.

In 2014, thanks in part to the continual training and education of the UHOP team, the unit was given accreditation from Seguro Popular, Mexico’s government healthcare system, which allows them to have access to federal funds and ensures that children get the treatment they need. LCCF continues to support UHOP with training for staff members. For more information on UHOP, visit www.hgejms.gob.mx.

Sudcalifornia Contra el Cáncer Infantil (SudCCaI) SudCCAI’s names translates to Baja California Against Childhood Cancer. It was started in 2012 by Dr. Altamirano and its current president, Lorena Romero Murillo, whose daughter had been previously diagnosed with cancer.

SudCCaI supports children and teens who receive treatment from UHOP by providing funds for transportation and travel expenses, medicines and diagnostic studies, among other things. It also helps support the UHOP with supplies and equipment. LCCF supports SudCCaI with funds for the acquisition of any additional medication and supplies needed for UHOP. For more information, visit sudccai.org.

Albergue Casa Valentina In English, that name translates to Casa Valentina Shelter. Casa Valentina is where the UHOP’s patients, and their relatives or caregivers, can stay during their treatments, for as long as they need to. Think of it as Baja’s version of the Ronald McDonald House.

In addition to a place to stay, Casa Valentina provides daily meals, occupational workshops and psychological therapies at no cost. There are also televisions and playrooms full of toys and books, so the kids can stay entertained and keep their minds off their treatments for a bit. LCCF supports Casa Valentina by providing funding for its various programs.

The BCS Cancer Registry The project to make a cancer population registry in the state of BCS began in 2016. It was created to give a clearer picture of the number of cases of cancer within the state, across all health institutions and age groups. It also highlights the communities that have a higher cancer rate. All of this information helps create statistics that can give researchers more knowledge about the conditions that encourage the cancer to grow, its treatment, and possible prevention.

LCCF started providing financial support the registry in 2016, when it was just a start up, to help keep it going as the program grew. But it wasn’t until April of this year that, when the National Cancer Registry was established, that the BCS Cancer Registry project began to take shape. LCCF continues to provide financial support for this project.

Along with these four local cancer organizations, LCCF also supports Fundación Mark (featured in a previous issue), an organization out of the mainland that constructs play areas within the pediatric oncology units of public hospitals. Fundación Mark is currently raising money to build a play area in the UHOP in La Paz.

For more information on the LCCF and its Spirit of Joy program, visit loscaboschildren.org/programs/spirit-of-joy.