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palomaPaloma Angel stands by a portrait of Lexi Krasnoff whose death from cancer inspired the Valley teen to raise money for the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation.


For the more than 300 guests who were gathered for the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation’s Gold Medal Luncheon on Oct. 1, it was an obviously confusing moment. Midway through the presentation of awards to major supporters, including comedian Dennis Miller, the event’s presenting sponsor Earl Minnis walked to the podium. What he did next was not in the program and left just about everyone in tears.

Minnis called Paloma Angel to the podium with him. He wanted, Minnis said, to publicly thank the Santa Ynez teenager for raising $100,000 for the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation (TBCF). The 16-year-old Dunn student looked confused, and so did many others.

Paloma had actually raised $1,000 for TBCF, quite a feat in itself given her age, but nowhere near $100,000. Minnis wasn’t misreading his notes. The philanthropist was so moved by what Paloma had accomplished, he donated $100,000 in her honor to the Foundation. Paloma broke down in tears.

“I had no idea he was going to do that,” she said after returning to her table and receiving a comforting hug from her mother, Tracy Angel.

TCBF provides a variety of support programs to families of youth up to age 21 who are living with cancer in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties. Programs include financial assistance for families, educational support and tutoring to help address the learning problems what often accompany chemotherapy, and “Moments in Time” special experiences for children. Even in the worst cases, money for funeral expenses.

Paloma learned of the organization several years ago under the saddest of circumstances. Lexi Krasnoff, the daughter of close family friends, died of cancer. Then another child her family knew also succumbed to the disease.

“I didn’t know either one but I did find out that they were both going through Teddy Bear,” Paloma said. “I contacted Teddy Bear to see what I could do to help. They really need it.”

Paloma was in the seventh grade when she began volunteering to help with mailings.

“I was shocked at how much mail there was, just to the families,” she said. “If I stacked it up, it made for a taller stack than I was.”

More recently, her school gave students a project that she directed toward TBCF.

“They gave us $10 to see what we could do with it,” she said. “I thought it would be a good start. I’d see where I could go from there, and decided to do a bake sale.”

Using her mother’s recipes, Paloma made cupcakes and cookies.

“I made most of them myself,” she said. She sold them outside her family’s restaurants, Rudy’s in Buellton and Paloma Restaurant in Goleta.

“I’d sell them outside Rudy’s on Tuesdays. That’s the busiest day there because of the Taco Tuesday special. I did it every Tuesday for about a year and a half. I put up a sign that I was raising money for Teddy Bear and asked for donations instead of a fixed price.”

With her goal of raising $1,000, it was a successful business strategy. She recalled with a huge smile the day a couple came by, asked for three cupcakes, and gave her $50.

“That was a biggest single donation,” she said.

A week later, the same couple returned and dropped another $20 in the jar for just one cupcake.

“I was so happy when I made my thousand dollars,” Paloma said.

She then waited until TBCF launched its third annual Gold Medal Campaign in recognition of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (September) before making the donation.

“I thought it would be more meaningful then,” she explained. Even more meaningful, her $1,000 donation was made in memory of Lexi Krasnoff. It made Paloma TBCF’s youngest sponsor at the Gold Ribbon Luncheon.

“It is invaluable to have youth supporting youth at the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation,” said executive director Lindsey Leonard. “I can’t overstate the importance of what Paloma did. She is a true role model.”

She’s also very much still a teen. Asked if nonprofit work was possibly in her future, or perhaps a career in medicine, the 11th grade student’s answer was “no” to both.

“My dream is to become an FBI profiler,” she said.

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