2015 TBCF Honorees
Heart of Gold Award | Dennis Miller
Dennis became involved with TBCF when he served as our esteemed master of ceremonies and auctioneer at our Luncheons in both 2008 and 2009 and subsequently as our master of ceremonies in 2011 at our An Evening of Laughter and Love Honoring Carol Burnett event.
Dennis is a comedian and actor known for his humor and wide-range of knowledge. He has been on Saturday Night Live and co-produced and starred in his own HBO show, Dennis Miller Live, for which he won two Emmys. He also provided play-by-play commentary for Monday Night Football in the early 2000s. He has his own radio show, The Dennis Miller Show, and has served as commentator for The O’Reilly Factor. Additionally, he has been in several notable films, including The Net, Murder at 1600, and Joe Dirt, and produced and starred in Bordello of Blood. Dennis still performs live and is active in several shows, including with Bill O’Reilly.
He participated on TBCF’s One Voice video, produced in 2012 and recorded at Kenny Loggin’s home studio, and said about pediatric cancer, "…I wish we lived in a (Willy) Wonka world where kids never got sick and the rivers are chocolate and everyone gets their sweets, but we don’t. So the next best thing is to try to fight back against it." Leave it to Dennis to not only keep everything real and genuine–but humorous as well!
His deep commitment to TBCF has been seen not only by his willingness to learn about and participate in the work we do, but also as witnessed when he met one of our TBCF kids, Melinda Marchiano, when she was a teenager. Melinda’s battle with cancer was very rough and during her experience she wrote a book about her journey. After reading Melinda’s story, Dennis compared her to a modern-day Anne Frank at one of our Luncheons and told the guests how she inspired him. Recognizing Melinda in this way was very special, as it instilled confidence in this young woman and is exemplary of his giving character. In more recent years, Dennis has also helped wrap gifts during Project Holiday for our TBCF kids.
Dennis’ commitment to TBCF for nearly the past decade is deeply appreciated and we are honored he considers TBCF an organization that he keeps near and dear to his heart.
Helping Hand Award | Sheela Hunt
Sheela has been actively hands-on since she met TBCF’s founder, Nikki Katz, in 2002 when TBCF was first developed. She is an incredible ambassador and continuously dedicates her time fulfilling the organization’s mission by supporting fundraising efforts and raising awareness.
Sheela has been instrumental to TBCF by building media relations that helped raise TBCF’s visibility and she’s been an event chair on numerous occasions, working tirelessly on one of TBCF’s former long-standing events, Saks & The City–that during its seven-year run generated $773,000. Sheela has also given her time, expertise, and energy to Luncheons; a comedy night event; party books, such as Music and Margaritas with Kenny Loggins; programs including Project Holiday, Family Fun Day, Bear Necessities and Moments in Time; as well as many other TBCF projects. She is an advocate, regularly informing friends, family, business owners, and community members about the stress and challenges families that have a child with cancer endure.
Sheela was born in Hong Kong to parents of East Indian heritage. Her childhood was spent traveling and living abroad and, during grade school, her family settled in Los Angeles. She received her bachelors degree in marketing and went into the banking industry. After marriage and for many years, Sheela and her husband Mark were involved in producing the SHINE AWARDS, a major annual fundraising event for an entertainment charity that gave awards to TV shows, music videos, and feature films. Sheela moved to Santa Barbara in 2002 and joined Mark’s multi-generational family, who are imbedded in Santa Barbara’s history. Since then, Sheela has been a successful Real Estate Agent and has volunteered for many organizations such as Montecito Union School PTA, Storyteller, Santa Barbara High School’s MAD Academy, Angels Foster Care, Village Properties Teachers Fund, and, of course, to TBCF. Her daughter, Sareena, who has also been a wonderful volunteer for TBCF, recently graduated top of her class in 2015 from Santa Barbara High School and is now attending the Marshall School of Business at University of Southern California.
Sheela currently serves as a co-chair of TBCF’s event ambassador committee. Sheela is someone that our TBCF team knows we can always call on to help! She continues to be there for the organization, from wrapping holiday presents to chairing fundraising events, and we are blessed to consider her amongst our most prized supporters.
Humanitarian Award | Wells Hughes
Wells was introduced to TBCF in 2002 by founder, Nikki Katz, and served as the founding board chair. He is attributed with helping develop the organization’s board governance structure during TBCF’s early days as well as helping raise TBCF’s profile in the community by garnering support from numerous community leaders. He currently serves as an emeritus board member as well as a member of TBCF’s fund development committee. He is an active ambassador of the cause and participates in speaking engagements and fundraising endeavors, including co-chairing TBCF’s inaugural Little Heroes Breakfast in June 2015.
Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation is very proud to recognize Wells with the Humanitarian Award for his dedication over the past decade and for contributing to the welfare and well-being of families that have a child with cancer by garnering resources to further the organization’s mission. He is a proven advocate for families and has time and time again gone the extra mile to ensure the financial and emotional burdens families experience when caring for a child with cancer are alleviated.
Wells is a founding partner of the wealth management firm Arlington Financial Advisors in Santa Barbara. Additionally, he serves on the advisory board and finance committee for Dream Foundation and continues to have a big brother relationship with the seven-year old boy he met 14 years ago while a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Pay It Forward Award | Mireles Family
The Mireles Family became recipients of TBCF’s program services in 2007 when Isabella, lovingly known as "Isa," was diagnosed with leukemia at age two. Since Isa’s diagnosis, the Mireles Family has been true ambassadors of TBCF by providing comfort and support to families whose children are currently in treatment, sharing their personal story at our events, as well as to the media, and volunteering in various capacities over the past eight years.
Isa’s brother, Nino, started a project in high school called "Murals of Hope" where he painted beautifully themed murals in TBCF Kids’ bedrooms to help cheer them up during their chemotherapy treatments. Her older sisters, Leah and Nora, have chaperoned multiple program events and participated in our family support groups. Isa’s parents, Jessica and Rene, have visited families in the hospital, bringing them gifts and Jessica’s famous warm homemade scones. Isa, now 10-years old, was recently honored with our first ever "Little Hero Award" at our inaugural Little Heroes Breakfast earlier this year.
Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation would like to thank the Mireles Family for their continued dedication to pediatric cancer awareness in our community. It is an honor to be presenting your family with this award today!
Little Hero Award | Isa Mireles
In 2015, we recognized nine-year-old Isa Mireles with our inaugural Little Hero Award, given to pediatric cancer survivors who pay-it-forward. Isa was diagnosed at age two with leukemia and is now cancer free. She dedicates her time speaking about cancer as a brave ambassador of our cause.