Cancer help group gets a celebrity, cash boost

DOWNTOWN — For families struggling on already skimpy budgets, putting a child through expensive cancer treatments can be a near-impossible feat.

For the nonprofits that assist those families, the spiraling economy has presented its own challenges. And so representatives for the PADRES Contra El Cancer organization, which covers Glendale along with other cities in Los Angeles County, were only too happy to accept a $200,000 check Saturday from AT&T; executives at a downtown branch in Burbank.

Dressed in a beige skirt with shortly cropped hair, the diminutive actress Eva Longoria Parker of “Desperate Housewives” was nearly dwarfed by the oversized check.

“I love getting big checks like this,” said Longoria Parker, who is the national spokeswoman for PADRES, which provides financial and logistical assistance to low-income children with cancer. “It was a scary year for all charities, for all fundraising. . . . This is much-needed money.”

The gift was the third such donation from AT&T;, now in its third year of raising money from customers for the cause. Saturday’s donation brought the three-year drive to $700,000.

Given the down economy and the challenges faced by nearly every company, “it’d probably be really convenient” for businesses to cancel their charitable fundraising commitments, said Andy Shibley, vice president and general manager of AT&T;’s Greater Los Angeles area.

Even so, “It’s not convenient for families to have to suffer what they suffer through,” he said while announcing the donation.

All of the money donated came from customers at more than 130 AT&T; retail stores throughout the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles, company representatives said.

During the five-week fundraising campaign, customers were encouraged to donate a portion of their service rebates to PADRES.

The money will be used to supplement the nonprofit’s education programs for families with cancer-stricken children, and help support the group’s subsidies, including gas and grocery vouchers for struggling parents.

For clients Rosa Ibarra, and her 14-year-old daughter, Ashley, it’s the smaller, more practical everyday items that help the most.

“It’s a very difficult time for us,” said Ibarra, her daughter standing beside her with a scarf wrapped around her bald head.

While PADRES is a primarily Latino organization, it serves all low-income families, including those from Burbank and Glendale. In 2007, Los Angeles-based PADRES hosted a Christmas holiday party at the Pacific Edison Community Center for its clients, many of them young children who were bald and frail from ongoing chemotherapy.


 JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at jason.wells@latimes.com.

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