For families with a child affected by a pediatric brain tumor, the condition can be exhausting, emotionally and financially. Often, one or both parents are forced to leave work to care for the child, making the situation more stressful.
After Ron and Kelly Saba’s 7-year-old daughter, Riley, was diagnosed with a brain stem glioma in 2001, they experienced this struggle firsthand. As she underwent treatment, Riley expressed her desire to help other children with similar conditions. After Riley died, a short six months after her diagnosis, the couple founded the Life of Riley Foundation to celebrate her life, while helping to raise money for research, awareness and to support families dealing with treatment.
The foundation hosted fundraisers, including a Memorial Day beach run and a children’s black-tie gala. Kelly Saba says that since its inception, the foundation has helped more than 30 families with everyday expenses while their children underwent treatment.
After the Sabas took a few years off from hosting fundraisers, Ralph Cushing, a friend of the family, suggested an affordable fundraiser in the form of a car show.
“I thought it sounded fun,” said Kelly Saba. “I love events that are open to the public, and it sounded like an inexpensive way to bring people out. We had no idea what to expect, but it was great, and it was a success.”
The fundraiser will return for its second year, and in addition to the car show, the fundraiser will also include a kick-off party, featuring a silent auction on car-related items, items from local merchants and a guitar autographed by AC/DC’s Brian Johnson.
Cushing says guests can expect a great turnout, a variety of cars and family-friendly activities at this year’s car show Sunday, Nov. 4.
Kelly Saba says she is excited to bring the event back to continue to raise awareness and find a cure for cancer.
“The further away you get from something like what happened to us, with the loss of Riley, the more you can lose meaning of what it is you’re trying to do,” she said. “I hope this will help bring people back together in the memory of my daughter and help thousands of other kids and families. I hope it brings back what’s important in life, which is family.”
IF YOU GO
Life of Riley Foundation events
• Cars Under the Stars Kickoff Party — takes place at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, at the Sarasota Classic Car Museum, 5500 N. Tamiami Trail. Cost is $75. Call 685-2229.
• Southside Village SECA Car Show — takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4, on Hillview Street. Cost is free. Free trolley running to Chalk Festival and back. Call 955-4183.