On Wednesday, November 1st, Tequilas Burbank and community event planner Ashley Erikson hosted an inspiring and heart-warming Cancer Awareness Dinner Fundraiser to support the efforts of the Genomics and Genetics department at Providence Saint Joseph’s Disney Family Cancer Center.
Patricia and Carlos Rivera, owners of Tequilas Burbank, have been organizing a cancer fundraiser for years in support of Patricia’s sisters and parents, who gained their wings due to cancer. For the last two years, the Riveras have partnered with Erikson, who has been vocal about her family’s experience with breast cancer and her BRCA2 journey with preventative surgeries.
The outdoor patio of Tequilas Burbank was reserved for the event and seated over 145 guests who came to dine, drink, and enjoy the evening’s program. The Burbank Police Department brought their breast cancer awareness pink police cruiser for photos in the parking lot.
Colored curtains hung around a beautiful Dia de los Muertos ofrenda filled with pictures of loved ones who have passed from cancer. Each curtain represented a cancer awareness ribbon color (pink for breast cancer, teal for ovarian cancer, blue for colon cancer, etc.) Through the month of October, customers sent in photos of their loved ones who have battled cancer, and the restaurant printed, laminated and pinned the pictures on the curtains in honor of their battle.
Tequilas will be donating 20% of the proceeds from the dinner orders at the event to Providence and announced that they would be topping that with a $3,000 donation from the Riveras and the Tequilas Burbank family. Gema Sanchez was in the audience and matched the Rivera’s $3,000 donation. In total, through online donations, checks, and dinner proceeds, the event brought in over $17,000 for the Disney Family Cancer Center.
The Riveras and Erikson welcomed guests to the event and were given a Certificate of Recognition from Senator Anthony Portantino’s office to commemorate the work the team has been doing to bring awareness to cancer and to Providence. They then kicked off the evening with “Lean on Me,” sung by 13-year-old Burbank student, singer, and actress Isabella Meneses, who wowed the crowd with her powerful voice.
Since Patricia and Ashley were speakers at last year’s event, they brought in new speakers this year to share their personal stories and journeys with cancer. Speaker Ali Spuck was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer, metastatic to the lymph nodes, liver, and lung, back in 2018 when her daughters were just 6 and 7 years old. Spuck shared her emotional story of what it’s like being a chronic cancer patient, a single mother, and owning the cancer journey she has battled so fiercely. Much of Spuck’s treatment and doctors have been through Providence’s Disney Family Cancer Center, which she shared as a testament to the real people battling cancer who are touched by the generous donations made to the hospital.
The second speaker of the night was Burbank Police Chief Michael Albanese, who shared his personal experiences of losing his mother to breast cancer after he became a new father and his current experiences of supporting his daughter through her breast cancer journey after having a new baby. Albanese emotionally conveyed that watching your own child battle cancer is like a punch to the gut that brings you to your knees. His daughter is doing well, and Albanese provided guests with hope and inspiration about the incredible accomplishments our generations have had with the progression of cancer medicine and treatment.
Kayley Krystkowiak is a genetic counselor at the Center for Genomics and Genetics at the Disney Family Cancer Center. Krystkowiak provided the event attendees with information on genetic testing and how counselors go over family history and gene markers to determine your risks for certain cancers. Other members of the Providence team were also in attendance to answer questions about their programs and testing.
The event was how we envisioned,” said Patricia Rivera. “The Community gathering to honor our loved ones in heaven and support our Cancer Warriors on earth, the entire event was heartwarming. Listening to the Burbank Chief of Police, Mike Albanese, share his cancer story was a humanizing moment. It proved that Cancer can affect anyone.”
The event concluded with a beautiful tribute video showcasing all the photos of friends and family that were turned in of those who have battled cancer. The slideshow played behind Isabella Meneses as she wrapped up the night with two songs, and guests held up glowing candles as the lights dimmed down for the emotional performance.
The first song, “Dancing in the Sky” by Dani and Lizzy, was dedicated to those who have gained their wings to cancer, and then Meneses closed the night with “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten as a way to bring strength and positivity to the end of the event. “Isabella singing to our loved ones, the video in the background, and candle lights was a deep moment of reflection. It brought tears and smiles,” said Patricia.
If you are interested in donating to Tequilas Burbank’s fundraiser, they always have the donation link open because they believe cancer awareness shouldn’t happen one month out of the year or be supported at one event, but supported every single day. Donate here: https://capsj.give.providence.org/fundraiser/4223533