By Cathy Lirette
Despite the high temperatures, hundreds of people attended the Pheonix Spangler Foundation’s Family Fun Festival on June 17 in Hillsboro.
Located at Jefferson County Fairground, the festival featured approximately 55 craft and direct-sale vendors and a handful of food vendors who served up grub and cold beverages.
The purpose of the annual event was to raise money for pediatric cancer research via the Children’s Cancer Therapy Development Institute in Portland, Ore.
“CC-TDI is one of the few places where 100 percent of funding goes toward pediatric cancer research,” said Stephanie Furtado, founder of the foundation. “Most people are unaware that when they donate to the American Cancer Society, only 1 percent is allocated and that the National Cancer Institute only devotes 4 percent to this much-needed research.”
Furtado’s daughter Pheonix died from pediatric cancer in 2015 at the age of 14. Furtado first learned about CC-TDI from another parent who also lost her child to pediatric cancer. Like Spangler, the girl passed away from complications set on by Rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer that affects internal organs.
Furtado said one of the worst parts was when the family learned that there were no more treatment options after chemotherapy and radiation didn’t work.
“The worst thing to hear is that the doctor has exhausted all his capabilities and that there is nothing else to do but wait and hope for the best,” Furtado said. “You get so angry because in this day and age, there should be something else available. However, there is nothing new to try because there is not enough money for research.”
Before Spangler died, she told her mother that she wanted to donate her body to research so that someday someone could find a cure for pediatric cancer. She understood that her contribution could aid in the fight.
After Spangler’s death, her family held a fundraiser on June 13, 2015, in celebration of her birth. It was a mouse race, and numerous family and friends attended the event, raising almost $7,000. Furtado donated the money to CC-TDI, which aided the institute in purchasing a cell-testing machine. To honor Spangler, the company put her picture and a plaque on the machine to let people know who she was and what she did.
“After I did that, I knew I wanted to start a 501(c)3 non-profit organization to help raise additional funds for CC-TDI,” Furtado said. “So I began filling out the paperwork, got the needed tax ID number, built a website and completed everything I needed to do, with the help of a few vital volunteers, to make the Phoenix Spangler Foundation a proper organization.”
Furtado finalized everything in April 2016 and began running the foundation out of her home in Cedar Hill. Since then, the foundation has held several other fundraisers such as two paint nights, the first Fun Festival and a masquerade ball that raised around $10,000.
“Pheonix had always said that for her Sweet 16, she wanted to have a masquerade ball,” said Furtado. “So we felt it would be a great fundraiser in her memory.”
The foundation held the ball in September of last year, as that is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Now that the Family Fun Festival is over, Furtado and other volunteers are working toward the next event to be held Aug. 19. It is a Go Ribbon Gala to be held at the Villa Antonia Winery in Hillsboro.
“We do a lot of events in Hillsboro as Pheonix attended Hillsboro High School and a bunch of people knew her there,” Furtado said. “I believe that is one of the reasons our events are so well-attended.”
The gala will consist of a catered dinner and open bar (wine and beer only) and will have door prizes, raffles, a 50/50 and a silent auction. Guest speakers will include a friend of Spangler’s whom she met in the hospital, and a scientist from the CC-TDI. The teen will talk about being a childhood cancer survivor and the need for research, and the representative will speak about what the institute is working on as well as why the research is so important.
Cost of the gala is $60 per person or $450 for a table of eight. Those who would like to attend the upcoming gala or want to make a donation to the Pheonix Spangler Foundation can visit www.pheonixsfighters.org. There is also a Facebook page individuals can follow and find out more information.
To date, Pheonix’s Fighters, which is what Furtado and volunteers call themselves, have raised approximately $20,000 through the foundation.