Newsmaker of the Week

Scott Schauer
Executive Director, Michael Hoefflin Foundation

Interview by Leon Worden
Signal Senior Editor

Sunday, February 25, 2007
(Television interview conducted February 21, 2007)

Signal: How long have you been associated with the Michael Hoefflin Foundation?

Schauer: I got involved about nine years ago. I attended a dinner as just a guest (at) one of the galas that they have each year, and that's what introduced me to the foundation. As I got to know the Hoefflins and the foundation, they asked me if I'd help with the benefit, and it kind of grew from there. I've been involved ever since.

Signal: So this is a charity, and this is your full-time job?

Schauer: Well, I have a couple full-time jobs. I also own the Santa Clarita Soccer Center, so I spend time there. But my passion is this foundation and helping these kids with cancer.

Signal: You probably go to a lot of fundraisers; what about this in particular inspired you?

Schauer: I do go to a lot of fundraisers, and this community has a lot of great nonprofits. But I just was touched by the difference it made in the lives of these children and their families.
    I had an uncle who passed away from cancer, and right after that was when I found out about this foundation. I saw what he went through as an adult, and you meet and talk with some of these innocent children who are diagnosed with cancer; you just want to get more involved.

Signal: Who is Michael Hoefflin and what does the foundation do?

Schauer: Michael Hoefflin was born in 1986 and he passed away when he was 10 years old. The foundation was started when he was still alive, and it was founded by his family and his parents, Chris and Sue Hoefflin. They started a foundation to help out other families who were going through similar situations ... and it has built up. What we have tried to do is help (families) both financially and emotionally, and right now we have almost 200 families that we're working with and helping.

Signal: In how big a region? Two hundred families in the Santa Clarita Valley?

Schauer: We support the Santa Clarita Valley and all the surrounding areas, so we're also helping families in San Fernando Valley, Simi Valley, the Antelope Valley. We have one right now, there are a couple of kids out in Fillmore whom we're helping, also. So just our valley and the surrounding valleys.

Signal: What kind of help do you provide?

Schauer: A lot of different things, starting with: One of the biggest (needs) in the beginning is financial and emotional support.
    The financial support is when a child is diagnosed with cancer, we help the families with both gas and groceries. Usually after the diagnosis, there are constant trips back and forth to the hospital, usually one or two parents are not able to continue working because in this community, as you know, there are so many moms and dads working that when a child is diagnosed and you need to go to the hospital four or five times a week for treatments, it's hard to hold down the job, and obviously that becomes a priority. So the first thing we do is, we help the family financially with grocery support and gas support — and that actually starts before the child is even diagnosed.
    What we do is, we put together the Michael Hoefflin Foundation Care Kit, which is something that we place in the hospital. That care kit has a blanket and toiletries and a camera and phone cards and gas cards and parking cards, and when the child is at Children's Hospital, City of Hope, UCLA, Kaiser Hospital, when a child is diagnosed, they receive one of these care kits. It starts there. And it's just some information, a notebook where they can keep all the business cards.
    A lot of these families go down to the hospital for a checkup, and then they find out what the diagnosis is — some form of cancer, and they may end up at that hospital for three or four days in a row. So we start with the care kit; it goes to this financial support that we do on a monthly basis.
    Unfortunately, it goes to financial support for those that we lose. We have a bereavement gift
     for those who lose their battle, and unfortunately last year, we lost 16 kids.

Signal: Obviously there is not yet a cure for cancer; out of 200 — is that a typical rate?

Schauer: You know what — unfortunately, it depends. I mean, there have been years that we've had considerably less, and we hope never to have more.
    I was (speaking) at a Rotary meeting this morning, and they asked me: What would be your goal for the foundation in the future? I think our goal is that there is no more foundation — that we find that cure and that there isn't a need for us.
    The best gift that we can give to any of these children is finding that cure. That's why we take some of the money that we receive and we put it toward research grants.

Signal: What kind of research are you supporting?

Schauer: Each year, we have a grant committee that looks into the requests that we get for grants, and it's all innovative research for pediatric cancer. Dr. Jensen at City of Hope is one who has done some of the research; also at Children's Hospital we've given some money. Children's Hospital gave us some statistics that we donated, in grant money, approximately $2 million so far. And of that $2 million, they've showed us how our seed money has converted into $12 million in research grants.
    It's really heartwarming to see that — our moneys are really small that we're able to contribute, but these hospitals, going in, they'll go to government grants and make them grow from there.

Signal: The Michael Hoefflin Foundation became a big name in Santa Clarita charity circles rather quickly. Probably the best-supported charity in town, in terms of monetary donations from the community, is the SCV Boys and Girls Club, but the Hoefflin Foundation is right up there. How did you get so successful so quickly?

Schauer: We've been really blessed by the support by this community. Not only the individuals, but the companies and our sponsors. Every year our sponsor dollars grow, and I think it's very easy; when you think of children and cancer, you want to know how you can help.
    We put on some great events that raise a lot of money, and I think that's how the name got out there, in some of our events. Our gala, which we have every September, is a very big event; last year (we) had about 1,000 people there. Air Supply was the entertainment, and we raised quite a bit of money to help the cause.

Signal: We sometimes see, when young people die, parents try to start a fund or foundation to help kids with similar ailments, but it doesn't usually take root like this. Chris Hoefflin obviously did something that connected; what was it? Finding the right marketing person? Hooking up with the right people?

Schauer: That's the answer: Hooking up with the right people. I think if Chris was sitting here today, he would say: I didn't start this, but the community did. The community has just embraced the whole foundation. And it's a group effort. We have a slate of 14 board members who all put in effort every month to help the foundation—

Signal: And these are movers and shakers in the community?

Schauer: Yes. There are some great people. Ken Striplin who works for the city. Dianne Van Hook at College of the Canyons. There's Jill Mellady, who does an awful lot of work for the foundation. (The list) goes on and on. Those are just the board members. Then there's Mike Kerr and his support; I could go on with names for as long as we could sit here. But thank God for all of them. We're able to make a difference. It's not only those large amounts and those sponsor dollars, but it's the little dollars that add up to help us make a difference.

Signal: What is your budget? How much money do you raise?

Schauer: This year, our goal is to raise $1 million. Last year it was less than that, and we're kind of pushing the envelope a little bit this year because the need is there. As we get the name out there and people get to know about the foundation, more and more people are being referred to the foundation. So in turn, we need more money to help support them.

Signal: I don't suppose a greater percentage of the population is coming down with cancer; I would imagine that more people are finding out about you.

Schauer: Absolutely. We did a mailing to 80,000, and our biggest goal is not to raise funds, but to be there to help those families, and in turn we need money to do that. Our biggest goal is that not one child is diagnosed with cancer that we can't reach out to and help out.

Signal: There's a rumor that cancer rates among kids is higher in the Santa Clarita Valley than in some other places. Is there any truth to that?

Schauer: I'm not sure if that statistic is true or not. I know that 1 in 330 children is diagnosed before the age of 19, so that alone, that's a big number. There are a lot of children. And it's unfortunate. We've had a couple instances where we've had more than one in the same family, and it's unfortunate. But that's what we're there for — to help them as much as we can.

Signal: You mentioned how you help the family where a parent has to quit his or her job, but do you have situations where people are wealthy and don't need money? Is there some way you can help them?

Schauer: Absolutely. We have support groups that we do twice a month — both a bereavement group and then just a family group, and that is open to any of the families. A lot of them attend that.
    We have family events in that when a child is diagnosed. It's not just that child who's affected, it's the whole family. It's the other kids. And the attention all goes to that one, and the other ones don't get quite the attention that the other one did. So, it's really a family issue once there is a diagnosis.
    We put on family events five, six times a year. We just recently had our bowling party at Santa Clarita Bowl, where we invite all the families, and they filled the lanes and had a great time. I think that's really important, for some of these kids to see that they're not alone. They're out there bowling with the kid right next to them who's going through chemo, who doesn't have the hair, and it makes them feel a little bit better that they're not the only ones out there, and there's other ones who can share the experience.
    The family events — there is a big barbecue that we have. We have an event at Mountasia; we do baskets for these families at the holiday time. It's a really nice gift basket, and it's a joy for a lot of us to be able to go deliver (it to) these families and just say: We're thinking about you, and here's a gift.

Signal: How difficult is it for kids who are going through chemo to cope in school?

Schauer: It's unfortunate, and each family is a little bit different. Some of them make the decision to do home-schooling. Some of them decide that when they're ready, depending on the cancer, quite often their immune system is very low, so they're unable to go to a public school.
    We're there to help them. We have psychologists who help these families, if requested. And it's always per request. We don't try to push any of this onto the families. Whatever they'd want.
    One of the plans in our strategic plan for the next two years is, we're going to have a tutorial program where we're actually going to get teachers to volunteer to go visit these families at the homes. So that's one thing that's on the slate to be worked on this year.

Signal: Do you work with the schools or other agencies?

Schauer: We work with the schools (to the extent) that we give them information and we share with one another. They let us know if they hear of somebody who has been diagnosed, and we also give them information about the foundation on a regular basis, and they're on our mailing list.
    Again, the big thing that we want is, we don't want any kid in the Santa Clarita Valley or surrounding valleys to go unnoticed and not found out. If they're there, we want to be there to help them.

Signal: Do you work directly with doctors or other care providers?

Schauer: Not me, personally, but the foundation does. We work with them, actually, in the hospital, and it's usually the caseworkers. We have an outreach coordinator who meets with the caseworkers, who discusses the situation. And before we give financial support, our first contact is the caseworker, because before we give support, we need to make sure they've been diagnosed and they're in treatment, and that's through the caseworker.
    But we do work with the doctors on a lot of the research grants, and the doctors come out and speak to us. We've had them out to speak to our advisory board. The doctors are very supportive. They also attend a lot of our events. Dr. Bill Grove is one of our board members, and he was just out at our recent poker event. He was out there playing poker at a fundraiser we had.

Signal: And that was in the Antelope Valley. Do you have plans to expand what you do beyond the areas that you're serving now? Will you be focusing more on the Antelope Valley?

Schauer: I think we want to expand and we want to raise funds from the other areas where we're supporting families so it's not Santa Clarita that's raising the funds that are going to go to the outlying areas. What we want to do is raise money in all of these areas. That's why we did the poker event we did out there. The L.A. Galaxy (professional soccer team) is not only going to have a game out here, but we do a Galaxy dinner every year. We're thinking of moving that to the San Fernando Valley, to get them to participate a little bit more, and for public awareness. We really need to do events outside of this valley so people are aware.

Signal: Is there for expanding your service area outside of the Santa Clarita Valley? Do you have plans to become a national organization?

Schauer: I think that we have plans to help every kid we can, in a reasonable fashion.
    I think you need to have a border, and if you don't have a border, it can go forever. It was started with the Santa Clarita Valley and there was a child in Simi Valley, and in the beginning, there were only a few but they were spread out. So what we did is, we made a border that we feel that we can support and take care of and we can get to these families. Whey they have a question, or they have a problem or they need some help, we need to be able to be there for them. If they were in Orange County or San Diego or some of these other areas, I don't know that we'd be able to do the job that we're doing right now.

Signal: Is your growth a matter of the word spreading? Somebody knows somebody who lives nearby and tells them about the foundation, so you try to help them, too?

Schauer: If they're in our service area, that's what we're there (for), to help them, and we've defined what that area is, and we hope that somebody tells the next guy and the word spreads. If there's somebody in San Fernando Valley who doesn't know about us, some of these articles or (just like this) show here, might get the word out a little bit so we can be there to help these families.

Signal: You mentioned the L.A. Galaxy. Tell us about the event that's coming up March 18.

Schauer: This is really exciting in Santa Clarita, to have two professional teams come up and play a game against each other in our little town. It's really exciting for the foundation, and it is for the college and for the community. It's a professional game between the L.A. Galaxy and the Columbus Crew that will be played on March 18 at College of the Canyons.

Signal: This is soccer, so it's up your alley.

Schauer: It's soccer. Something I know a little bit about. We're really blessed to have these two teams come up here, because they get opportunities to play in a lot of different areas, and they have chosen us as one of their support areas. The Galaxy has been very supportive of the foundation.
    In fact, the first Galaxy dinner we had, the coach of the Columbus Crew was Sigi Schmid. He is the one who started them coming up for the dinner. Now he's the coach of Columbus Crew, so the two are coming together to play a game — and all to benefit the foundation.

Signal: What got them interested? Was it your soccer connection?

Schauer: Kind of a soccer connection that I had, and that's really what got me involved with the foundation. Chris Hoefflin approached me and said: Why don't we do a benefit where we can raise some money for this foundation, and since you know soccer, you know some of the players... So we had it out at — Juan (Alonso) hosted the first one out at Le Chene. We had about 60 guests and three or four players, and it has grown in the last eight years. Every year we sell out the Hyatt and the whole team comes and it grows every year. We have a little auction, and it's something that a lot of the soccer community out here really looks forward to.

Signal: On the one hand, football is huge in Santa Clarita and we don't see much interest in professional soccer. On the other hand, we see 6,000 or 7,000 kids playing AYSO soccer. If somebody's not very familiar with soccer, what can people expect to see on March 18?

Schauer: I understand that statement. When I grew up, everybody played football and baseball and we didn't even know what soccer was. I remember a kid moved across the street and he used to go out in his front yard — he moved here from England — juggling the ball, and we just couldn't understand what was with him, while we were playing football and baseball.
    But it has really grown. And this area, as you were saying, it's not only AYSO; but club and adult soccer in this community has really grown. At the Soccer Center, we have 140 teams, of which over 100 of them are adults and most of them are over 30 — so it's really growing.
    I think what they'll have an opportunity to do is just get a little taste of what the game is, and get together as a community to support the foundation and see the sport. If you've never seen a professional soccer game, it's very exciting.

Signal: Is it unusual for the Galaxy to play somewhere other than the Home Depot Center?

Schauer: It is, all year 'round. The only time they would do anything like this is pre-season, and this is a pre-season game. So after the season starts in April, they won't be playing anywhere but Home Depot Center and obviously the away team stadiums.
    But it's very unusual for them to come to Santa Clarita, and we're really excited about it. As I talked to both the coaches, they're coming to play their first team. It's right before the season starts, so it's not a reserve team match. They're going to be coming out there and playing with Cobi Jones, and they've committed that everybody that's not with the U.S. National Team — the U.S. National Team is made up of players from these teams. Everybody who's not with the U.S. National Team will be here and be playing.
    The question keeps coming up: Is David Beckham going to be there? And the answer is no. He's not here until July. I think if David Beckham were here, it might be a little tougher to get a game out at College of the Canyons.

Signal: You've had Air Supply, you're having the Galaxy; any plans for another big name in any kind of arena?

Schauer: Well, I can throw the name out, but we don't have it inked yet — we're talking to a few different bands for our event which is going to be Sept. 15 this year, it's going to be a Saturday. (It) is the gala.
    Our hopes are, if everything works out, that we're going to have Journey be the entertainment this year, which will be really exciting for us. That is being worked on right now.
    Some other events we'll have — we'll have a golf tournament in June, as we always do. This poker tournament we just had last weekend was a huge success, and we were a little concerned because it was out in the far end of Antelope Valley at Diamond Jim's Casino, and we were concerned about people driving the distance. But we had about 110 players and raised over $22,000 for the foundation. And it was good for Diamond Jim's; a lot of the Santa Clarita residents didn't know that was there — (among) the ones who did come from this area.

Signal: You've still got a ways to go to reach that $1 million.

Schauer: It's a combination of, we've received grants, it's the sponsorships; our sponsors come up very big. I mean, Kurt Boehmer Plumbing and Mercedes-Benz and Lighthouse Lending; I could go on and on (with) the regular corporate sponsors that sponsor every year, year-in and year-out.

Signal: It's interesting: You receive grants, but then you also give grants.

Schauer: Right. We've received grants; in fact, we're writing some grants right now. As we want to put a new program on, quite often what we'll do is, we'll seek a grant for it. In gasoline alone this year, we'll spend almost $100,000 for these families so they can get back and forth to the hospital.

Signal: Who are your big funders?

Schauer: It's mainly smaller foundations and local businesses that we go to, to get grants. The big funders usually will go directly — when we're supplying a grant to, let's say, Children's Hospital — a lot of grant organizations will go directly to Children's Hospital and not go through to us. So our grants are more for programs that we do.

Signal: Let's say I donate a dollar. How much of that dollar actually goes to the assistance that's provided, as opposed to your salary or overhead?

Schauer: I think that varies from year to year as we continue to grow; to give you an exact percent — I'm not sure that I would be able to do it right now. That's what we're doing, putting our numbers together from last year. But it's pretty close to 86 cents of every dollar goes directly to the families.

Signal: That is a good percentage for a nonprofit.

Schauer: It's incredible. But we've been so lucky from so many of these different organizations. We send out a newsletter quarterly, and what we try to do is let the community and our supporters know what our needs are, so they donate that to us instead of us going and purchasing it.
    One newsletter, our copy machine that was donated was ready to be retired; it wasn't working anymore. So we put in the newsletter, we had a need for a copy machine. That week, we got two black-and-white and one color, with all-service. And we've been really lucky. We put in there that one of the things we spend money on, that every business or every foundation or company needs, is paper. We'll put in there that we need copy paper, and somebody will donate five, 10 cases of copy paper.
    Our goal is not to spend money; obviously there's overhead and expenses that have to be paid, but our goal is that the majority of the money goes directly to these families.

Signal: Do you have an office?

Schauer: We have an office that we just recently moved to. We're really fortunate that we were given a reduced rate for our office. We're in Center Pointe. Larry Rasmussen owns the building. He has been supportive of the foundation, and we have an agreement there for the next five years at less than what we were paying (for) a much lesser office...
    Our goal is one day to have our own facility and have it paid for and not have any rent.

Signal: If Larry — or anybody else, for that matter — is looking at the big plate of charities you could give to, why the Hoefflin Foundation? Why would I choose the Hoefflin Foundation over a number of other worthy charities?

Schauer: You know what? You're right. There are over 400 nonprofits out here, and there's a number of incredibly great charities. I just think for me — and I'll just speak for me, personally, not for the foundation — I see the difference that the foundation makes for these families, and it's not something that there's any way that the family could do anything about it.
    I look at a family who recently just had their second child diagnosed with leukemia, and the parent used to work for the foundation. For that particular family, I know that we're making a difference for them. I think people who donate to the charities here want to make a difference, and one of the ways to make a difference, if it's a child diagnosed with cancer, is the Michael Hoefflin Foundation.

Signal: How do people reach you?

Schauer: The Web site is, and the phone number is (661) 250-4100. We're there all the time, and we'd be happy to answer any other questions.

Signal: Or come out to College of the Canyons on Sunday, March 18, at 5 p.m.

Schauer: That's a Sunday, and we'll be done so the kids can get home for school, and it's priced really affordably: $15 for adults, $10 for children. We're hoping to get 4,000 or 5,000 out there to enjoy the game.

Signal: Folks can learn something about professional soccer, too.

Schauer: Hopefully.

    See this interview in its entirety today at 8:30 a.m., and watch for another "Newsmaker of the Week" on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on SCVTV Channel 20, available to Time Warner Cable subscribers throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.

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