For Nellie De La Cruz, 11, and Capone Magallanes, 14, 2020 was a transformative year. This isn’t just because they’ve had to endure the pandemic, like the rest of the world, but because despite it, they’ve pushed forward with Cancer Fighters.
With the support of their parents, the cousin duo has spent the year performing random acts of kindness, holding cancer awareness events, and recently spread holiday cheer to other children with a string of events in December, all with COVID precautions in place.
They kicked off the holiday season in early December when they handed out candy canes at St. Mary Medical Center’s Annual Helping Hands Holiday celebration, where families in need drove through and received groceries and gifts. On Friday, Dec. 18 Cancer Fighters hosted a gift distribution for 60 sponsored children at Nieto Herrera Elementary School in Long Beach.
“I felt really good seeing them smile and knowing that they were really thankful for the gifts,” De La Cruz said of the elementary school gift distribution. “Just to see them that they were happy and they really enjoyed it.”
Magallanes agreed with a smile.
“I was really warm inside,” he said. “It made me feel joyful because they worked hard throughout this whole year and to see them getting something, it brightened their day up,” Magallanes said.
The day after their own gift distribution Cancer Fighters lent a helping hand to the Local Hearts Foundation and For The Children by volunteering to distribute toys at the Diamond Christmas event.
Before the candy canes and the gift distributions, however, Cancer Fighters spent every month of the year planning and executing events to help others.
They kicked off the year doing random acts of kindness and for Easter donated 94 baskets to Miller Children’s Hospital. For both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, Cancer Fighters distributed care packages around their neighborhood just as COVID was starting to take hold.
In June, they hosted a rheumatoid arthritis awareness event honoring Magallanes’ mother and the next month distributed 200 care packages to the Long Beach Police Department South and West Patrol Divisions.
One of their big events was over the summer, where the duo and their families made three trips to St. Mary’s to thank doctors, nurses, and other essential workers for their work during the pandemic with care packages.
A string of awareness events, which took place on the Eastside of Long Beach and consisted of Cancer Fighters and their supporters asking dozens of cars to honk to raise awareness for an illness earning them a goodie bag, took place from September to November.
Each event honored a family member, such as the Kleefstra Syndrome Disorder event, which honored De La Cruz’s sister. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the disorder features developmental delay, limited or absent speech and weak muscle tone.
Their breast cancer awareness event honored Magallanes’ aunt, Mary Maez, who underwent her own journey with breast cancer as well as De La Cruz and Magallanes’ aunt, Carmen Armenta, also a breast cancer survivor. Their November pancreatic cancer awareness event honored their late grandmother and their aunt, who FaceTimed in to see the event.
“I’m very proud of them, they’ve been doing it for a while and words can’t describe how proud I am of both of them,” De La Cruz’s mother, Nellie Lopez, said. “For Nellie, her being my own, what surprises me is how she’s so giving and how she wants to inspire others. For Capone being his age, I’m just really shocked, you see teenagers that are just like ‘I’m good, I’m good I’m not going to do this’ and for him to take action, it’s amazing.”
Although the Southern California region is under a stay at home order, Cancer Fighters are thinking ahead with plans for 2021, once it’s safe for them to continue their mission.
“Before COVID, we had some plans that we wanted to read to kids,” De La Cruz said. “Once COVID is done that’s the next step to do.”
De La Cruz added that their next goal is to reach out to foster children.
“I feel very proud,” De La Cruz said looking back at 2020. “I feel like more kids should be inspired to try their hardest no matter how big or small you are, you should make a difference. Even if it’s something little, you can always just change something for someone and make them smile.”
To support Cancer Fighters and stay up to date with future events, you can follow them on Instagram @cancerfighter71909