Ruskin resident David Rice has been battling a rare form of Non Hodgkins Lymphoma since 2014. After suffering through years of misdiagnosis and doctors visits, leaving him with excessive medical bills, Rice recently started receiving help from the Brandon-based Angel Foundation which matches those in need with local businesses able to help.
From providing funds for a hotel room when Rice has to travel for Gainesville for his weekly treatments to connecting him with someone to fix his vehicle, help with legal documents and cut his grass, the Foundation has been able to make a very challenging time in Rice’s life a little easier.
His wife, Alicia Hillman, describes Rice as the type of person who finds it hard to accept help, but explains that the aid the couple has received from the program has been a huge relief.
“David wants to be able to do the things that he has always done, but at the moment he just isn’t able to and as his caretaker and working full time, my plate is really full too,” said Hillman. “The Foundation has stepped in and helped in so many ways.”
Hillman especially appreciates the leg work the Foundation has done to help solve both everyday issues and challenges brought about by Rice’s illness.
“When we were first connected with them, someone offered to come and wash David’s car and even do his laundry,” said Hillman, a banker with Fifth Third’s Riverview branch. “I thought it was so amazing. I want to be able to do it all. I love him so much, but there is just so much right now that the help is invaluable.”
Founded in 2006 as an offshoot of what was then known as the Brandon Foundation, the Foundation Angel Program is funded by two large events each year, a charity golf classic in the spring and The Evening of Hope gala in November. Since its inception, the group has given back more than $2,000,000 in grants, goods and services to more than 550 families in the Brandon area. Angels, the group’s name for businesses, organizations and individuals who want to help, are always needed to continue the group’s mission.
Brandon Foundation celebrates ‘love’ of Angel Program
Liz Brewer, Brandon Foundation executive director, provides support to Alicia Sandage (middle) as she fills with emotion. Daytime hosts Jerry Penacoli and Cyndi Edwards look over to give comfort. Photo by Tatiana Ortiz.
By Tatiana Ortiz, Times Correspondent
Published: November 7, 2017
Updated: November 12, 2017 at 05:35 PM
RIVERVIEW — Individuals stepped onto the red carpet and glanced at the Eiffel Tower while dressed in their most exquisite attire.
The Standing 8 Count Jazz Ensemble played a mellow tune fitting with the night’s “Parisian Experience” theme. The “City of Love” proved a good backdrop given how much love the Brandon Foundation has shown recipients.
The foundation celebrated its 12th annual Evening of Hope on Nov. 3 with 400 in attendance at the Regent. The event serves as the nonprofit’s annual fundraiser and raised money and awareness about the foundation’s Angel Program.
Officials said the event raised $50,000, and the awareness also rose thanks to stories from those who received assistance through the Angel Program.
Alicia Sandage took the stage and fought back tears as she spoke about her friend who recently passed away from cancer. She also mentioned how the Brandon Foundation Angel Program became a saving grace.
“I tried everything I could to help my friend, her two twin daughters and other daughter,” said Sandage, who chose to protect the family’s privacy. “The girls live with their aunt who receives assistance from the Angel Program.”
The Angel Program gave the twins tickets to Universal Studios Florida for their birthdays. They also presented the aunt a spa package.
Most of all, Sandage said, the foundation gives them hope.
Foundation executive director Liz Brewer knows all too well about the emotions expressed by Sandage. Evening of Hope came into fruition after she lost her father due to lung cancer. He passed away within six months after his diagnosis.
While Brewer’s father battled with his cancer, the lending hands of others steeled her resolve. Now she aims to strengthen the Angel Program for others.
“Honoring our 12th annual Evening of Hope demonstrates the power behind this program as it continues to grow strong in the community,” Brewer said.
The foundation established the Angel Program in 2006. It assists families in the Brandon community who experienced a catastrophic event or life-threatening illness. To date, 500 families received assistance through the program. It now consists of 18 Angel teams.
The effort also spawned the Junior Angel Program, which involves teen student representatives from Bloomingdale and Newsome High Schools. Junior Angel Chairwoman Jill Lansky says the program hopes to expand and include other students.
Daytime hosts Cyndi Edwards and Jerry Penacoli emceed the event. Guest speakers for the night included Brandon Regional chief of staff Dr. Daniel Lorch, Ashley HomeStore Hope to Dream Ambassador Ruthie Bautista, Spirit FM Morning Show host Abby Brundage and Blind Side actor Quinton Aaron.
Attendees also had the opportunity to participate in wine and food tastings from various local business sponsors such as Bonefish Grill, Longhorn Steakhouse, Nothing Bundt Cakes and Southshore Uncorked.
“Overall, The Brandon Foundation will continue connecting with resources that become available in order to assist our Angel families,” Brewer said.
For more information, visit brandonfoundation.org. Call (813) 689- 6889.