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Foundation Gives A Hand To Parents Of Children Struggling With Cancer

There are few things more harrowing for parents than having a child with cancer. A San Diego Foundation tries to make things a little easier.

— The death of a child is a parent’s worst nightmare.

After Richard and Diane Nares of Mission Hills lost their son Emilio to cancer, they turned their anguish into action.

They started the Emilio Nares Foundation to give financial and emotional support to parents who have a child diagnosed with cancer.

Armando Camberos is a driver with the Emilio Nares Foundation.

Five days a week, from Chula Vista to Oceanside, he picks up children who have cancer and delivers them to their medical appointments.

"And I got a lot of kids that go to La Jolla for radiation," Camberos said. "Every single day except Saturdays and Sundays."

At this stop, he picks up six-year-old Ricardo Suarez and his mom Angelica Padilla.

The boy’s cancer is in remission. He was diagnosed with leukemia when he was just three weeks old.

Today, Ricardo’s going from his home in Spring Valley to one of his periodic check ups at Rady Children’s Hospital in Kearny Mesa.

His mom, Angelica Padilla, said the foundation was a lifesaver when Ricardo was sick with cancer.

"The Emilio Nares Foundation was for us a big relief, because I don’t drive on the freeway, and my husband works," Padilla said. "They picked us up and took us to the hospital twice a week, because my son needed blood and platelets. We got food vouchers for everything we needed, too. They were always here for me."

The foundation is named after Emilio Nares, who died from leukemia when he was five years old.

His dad, Richard, started the foundation in 2003.

"My wife and I wanted to give back, because we had went through this horrific ordeal with our son," Nares said. "And we knew so much, and we knew we had to share what we had learned. And so, the goal was to give back to families, and hopefully to help them through their journey.”

Nares said what they learned is that hospitals can be scary and unsettling, especially when you have a severely ill child.

"Because once your child gets diagnosed with cancer, your whole family system is just totally disoriented, just totally thrown up in the air," Nares pointed out. "So it’s something totally new, ‘cause none of us can prepare for cancer; it just hits you. And so you really need to go back to the basics: food, transportation. So that really was the thought, it was to make sure these families get the basic services.”

The foundation also offers a knitting class a couple of days a week.

Programs coordinator Gaby Hernandez has been teaching the class for years.

She said it’s a place for women to relax and share their stories.

"They relate to each other because the illness affects not only the child, it affects the whole family," Hernandez said. "So they talk to each other about the ups and downs on the whole illness issues, and they help them to see that it is not only them, that it affects more people. And they can relate to each other to support each other."

Luz Quiroga is the foundation’s patient services director. One of her sons had cancer when he was a little boy.

Quiroga knows what these families are going through.

"So it’s always so rewarding to see how far these families have come, how much they have achieved, with such a tragedy," she said.

Of course, some of the kids don’t make it. In those cases, the foundation covers the burial expenses.

Richard Nares said his foundation is designed to make the fight against cancer easier for families.

"To try to take away some of that anguish and fear and pain," he emphasized. "And we know if we can do a little bit of that, then we’re doin’ our job."

The Padilla family found a way to express their gratitude to the Emilio Nares Foundation. Not too long ago, Ricardo’s mom Angelica gave birth to another son.

"To thank Mr. Nares for all he did for us, we named our son Emilio," she said, smiling.

Since 2003, the foundation has helped thousands of San Diego families.

Video by Nicholas McVicker

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