Cancer Survivor Helps Make Dreams Come True
Dec 07, 2017 Cedars-Sinai Staff
Chris Angelo Word was 47 when he learned he had colon cancer. He had never had any health problems and the diagnosis came as a big shock to the Marines veteran. He set out to find the right care team, having 8 exams elsewhere before finally coming to Cedars-Sinai.
"When I saw the kids going through their own hard times, that's when I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started thinking of ways I could help out a little bit."
During his inpatient treatment, Chris spent much of his time walking the halls of the hospital. That's when he saw children facing their own cancer battles.
"I had been asking myself, 'Why did I get cancer?' But when I saw the kids going through their own hard times, that's when I stopped feeling sorry for myself," says Chris. "I started thinking of ways I could help out a little bit."
When Chris finished his treatment and went home, the Lifedriven Foundation was born. The foundation started with donating gift bags stuffed with books and toys to the Cedars-Sinai Department of Pediatrics, and it quickly grew into something bigger.
With support from friends, community members, and Chris's business partner Sam Watson, the foundation now gives pediatric cancer patients trips to Disneyland and other "miracles," as Chris calls them.
"To see a kid happy is the biggest joy you can ever get. To put a smile on the face of a child going through cancer is really amazing."
These miracles sometimes include basketball tickets or shopping sprees, and the Lifedriven Foundation has a new scholarship program for young cancer patients.
In the summer of 2017, the foundation hosted a celebrity softball game and gifted 2 Cedars-Sinai patients with Disneyland tickets. The game, which included boxer Shawn Porter and members of the Los Angeles Police Department, is one of several fundraising events put on by the organization throughout the year.
"We feel very thankful to Chris for this gift," says Natalie Martinez, mom of 5-year-old leukemia patient Nathan Flores, who received Disneyland tickets at the softball game. "We haven't been able to do anything like this since Nathan started treatment. It will be a great celebratory trip because he's a lot better now."
"He's really able to relate to the kids because he's been through it and he understands."
Chris works closely with child life specialist Joanne Ordono to find patients who could benefit from a special experience.
"He came to us and said he wanted to do something for the young kids," says Joanne. "He's really able to relate to the kids because he's been through it and he understands."
Now 11 years after founding the Lifedriven Foundation, Chris is healthy and happy to be able to send dozens of kids and their families to Disneyland each year. What drives Chris and the Lifedriven Foundation? The happiness the gifts bring to patients.
"To see a kid happy is the biggest joy you can ever get," says Chris. "To put a smile on the face of a child going through cancer is really amazing."