Turning a Parent’s Worst Nightmare into a Legacy to Ava!

November 29, 2021


Dan Shufelt

Every parent’s worst nightmare is the loss of a child. Chrisie Funari, the founder of Arizona Cancer Foundation for Children (“ACFC”) lived through that nightmare.

Chrisie’s daughter, Ava, was diagnosed with cancer at 18 months of age. Ava fought the battle against neuroblastoma for more than three years before dying at age 5. Such a traumatic experience can steal your heart and dash your dreams, but Chrisie knew that the battles she fought are lived every day by others, and set out to bring hope to local families who have children with cancer.

Founding ACFC and working with others who share her experiences has helped Chrisie move past her nightmare, putting her energy to work doing whatever it takes to go the extra mile to help folks like her.

At the lowest point in a family’s life, having someone beside you who understands can make all the difference.

In Arizona, one child a day is diagnosed with cancer, and one in five will pass away. ACFC is there to help these families navigate hospital services, to lend an ear and to provide financial assistance. A cancer diagnosis adds unplanned expenses for travel, medical services, rent and other costs – including end of life arrangements. 76% of the families served by the organization are living in poverty and such expenses cannot be borne without the help provided by ACFC.

Community is also a cornerstone of ACFC. Dealing with cancer treatments, spending days or even months in the hospital affects the entire family. Susan, a mom to cancer warrior Erin says that “the emotional connection and knowing that someone – AFCF – has our back has been amazing.” With K9 therapy, individual and family counseling, coping skills workshops and even creating special birthday packages for children, ACFC is there to support each family.

Chrisie and ACFC are not done yet. The next big and bold move will cement Ava’s legacy by creating a place where kids with cancer can just be kids through the creation of Ava’s Tree House. This dream is to construct a facility that offers all of the services currently provided and much more in a safe, hyper-clean and comforting environment. This will be a place where boys and girls who have been poked, prodded and just worn out by their journey can find a place to play and explore, just like their healthy peers. Parents can access support services, or maybe just relax in a welcome and friendly environment. Ava’s Tree House is a dream that will bring hope and peace during a traumatic time for any family experiencing the horrors of childhood cancer.

Chrisie has lived on past losing Ava, and Ava has lived on in the work and the dreams of ACFC. Seeing her daughter’s body shut down, and hearing her say in her final days that “Mommy I don’t want to feel like this anymore” was utterly devastating and draining. Through ACFC, Chrisie has turned any parent’s worst nightmare into a legacy that honors the lives of children like Ava and can help families just manage to get through the next step on the journey while the medical community continues to pray for, and work diligently to create progress against pediatric cancer.

Learn more about Arizona Cancer Foundation for Children at azcancerfoundation.org.  As a Qualifying Charitable Organization (QCO #20873) Arizona taxpayers can receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for certain donations.  The capital campaign for Ava’s Tree House, a lasting legacy to Ava is also seeking financial support, information can be accessed on the website.

Dan Shufelt, the former CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, has been involved in the charity world as an executive and grant maker for many years.

If you enjoy learning of caring people and the amazing work they devote their energy to advance, be sure to sign up for Dan’s blog (see sign-up form below).


Recent Posts

Sign Up for Dan’s Blog

Contact Me!

I’m always interested in meeting new friends who are Giving Back, or want to discuss how to become involved!