No Worries Now is a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to improving the wellbeing of teens with life-threatening illnesses now. Our annual proms and pair program make an immediate impact on our patients’ emotional wellness by providing an escape from daily treatment schedules and a chance to dance – especially for those teens who may not live long enough to attend their own proms. Meanwhile, our public umbilical cord blood banking initiative seeks to increase the availability of resources that already cure many of our prom attendees’ illnesses, including leukemia and lymphoma.
Fred Scarf met his best friend, Shiri Gumbiner, when they were both fresh out of middle school in 2004. Something clicked, and they were instantly inseparable. Fred hardly even noticed that Shiri had bone cancer – she was so full of life, humor, and spirit. When things took a turn for the worse, Shiri was hospitalized and endured a rigorous treatment schedule. She had a cord blood transplant, but because of the very limited number of publicly available units, the cord blood unit was not a perfect match, and the transplant was unsuccessful. During this time, Fred would often cheer Shiri up by talking about their plans to attend senior prom together, a promise he was committed to keep. Shiri lost her battle with osteosarcoma, passing away on August 18, 2005, at age 16. Fred was devastated, and he became determined to ensure that every teen had a chance to attend prom. A month later, at the age of 15, Fred founded the Shiri Foundation, which changed its name to “No Worries Now” in 2009.
The first Shiri Foundation Prom was held for just 20 kids in Los Angeles’s California Science Center in 2006. Over the years, the foundation grew from Fred and a few friends, family members, and neighbors to a nonprofit board made up of hospital administrators, entertainment industry representatives, attorneys, professors, event organizers, patients, and moms – all volunteering their time for a cause that inspired them. In 2008, Fred began his studies at the University of California, Berkeley, where he met fellow freshman Marta Belcher. Marta immediately joined the Board as its youngest member. At the 2009 prom in San Francisco, she met prom attendee Samantha Ashburn. She and Sammi clicked, and the two spent the summer going on weekly outings that gave Sammi the opportunity to feel like a kid and just have fun in a similar manner to the Now Proms. This inspired Marta to spearhead the Pair Program, which would provide similar opportunities for volunteer-patient pairs in a yearlong program, cuminating at the following year’s prom. Tragically, Sammi passed away of bone cancer in 2011 just a few weeks after her sixteenth birthday, prompting the renaming of the Pair Program to “Sammi’s Pairs” in her honor.
Through talking to No Worries Now patients, Marta learned about cord blood. Cord blood is simply left over in the umbilical cord after birth, and is usually thrown away as medical waste. However, cord blood acts in the same way as bone marrow, and can be transplanted to cure more than 70 diseases currently – including leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia, and testicular cancer. Unlike bone marrow, however, extracting cord blood is risk-free, painless, and not time-sensitive, since cord blood can be frozen and stored for up to fifteen years. However, the vast majority of cord blood units are simply thrown out, and those that are banked are banked privately – meaning that the parents pay for storing the cord blood, and it is only available to be used by that family. Meanwhile, thousands of patients each year die while waiting to find a match in the woefully inadequate public banking system (not because new moms don’t want to donate their cord blood publicly, but rather because such a public system simply does not exist in most states and at most hospitals).
Marta became obsessed with increasing the availability of public cord blood banking, and interned for California Assemblymember Anthony Portantino, working on his pioneering legislation to establish and fund California’s public Umbilical Cord Blood Collection Program. The following summer, Marta took her efforts to Washington, D.C., where she interned with the legislative relations department of the National Marrow Donor Program, which also runs the National Cord Blood Inventory. Realizing that the main obstacle to universal public banking is simply awareness (since it is otherwise, as Marta calls it, a “duh” issue), Marta assembled a group of U.C. Berkeley students to make a documentary about cord blood. Marta travelled to several states to interview doctors, patients, researchers, donors, recipients, and legislators – anyone who knows anything about cord blood. She even travelled to Heidelberg, Germany, with a U.C. Berkeley Institute of International Studies Grant to interview Dr. Gero Huetter, who for the first time ever cured a case of HIV using bone marrow – and says cord blood can do the same thing.
Taking over as the executive director of No Worries Now, Marta made cord blood a priority through the Saving Lives Now initiative, which seeks to save one life at a time by allowing volunteers to raise $200 to collect one unit of cord blood at a time to be added to the public registry. The nonprofit’s fifth prom in 2011 was held in Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum on Hollywood Boulevard for 500 patients, drawing national media attention from CNN, ABC, and The Early Show, and heralding Marta’s naming as The Huffington Post’s Greatest Person of the Day. In 2012, No Worries Now launched Prom in a Box, which provides volunteers from around the globe with the tools and support they need to throw a Now Prom in their own city. Through this program, Now Proms will be held in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Detroit, and Washington, D.C. in 2012, expanding across the Atlantic to Dublin, Ireland in 2013.
Marta is currently a student at Stanford Law School and a student reporter for The Huffington Post. In 2008, Marta graduated summa cum laude from the University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in Rhetoric. Marta joined No Worries Now in 2008. Inspired by the time she spent with No Worries Now spokesperson Samantha Ashburn, who passed away in April 2011 of bone cancer, Marta spearheaded the Now Pairs program before taking on the position of Executive Director. Marta has been honored for her work with No Worries Now as The Huffington Post’s Greatest Person of the Day and a Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership Conference Outstanding Young Alum. At Berkeley, Marta was a consistent dean’s list honoree as well as a recipient of merit scholarships from the Alumni Leadership Foundation and Institute for International Studies. In 2011, she received an award from the President of Ireland through the international Undergraduate Awards for a paper she wrote about social media and intellectual property. She has also studied at Freie Universität Berlin and is fluent in German. In order to further her vision of a public umbilical cord blood banking system, Marta founded the Cal Cord Blood Initiative in 2009 (now a part of No Worries Now as the Saving Lives Now program) and is in the process of producing a documentary on the topic. She has interned in the office of California Assemblymember Anthony Portantino and in the Legislative Affairs Department of the National Marrow Donor Program working on cord blood issues. She worked as the copy editor and a staff writer for the Outlook Newspaper for four years until 2008, and previously had her own column about college etiquette in the Daily Californian. In her spare time, Marta enjoys geocaching, reading about psychology and technology, and spending quality time with her husky and cat.
Stacey became involved with No Worries Now when her daughter, Rachael, attended a Now Prom. Stacey’s family was deeply affected when Rachael was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, and the chance for Rachael to attend a Now Prom came as a welcome break from the daily treatment schedule. Stacey was so impressed with the organization that she came on board as the operations manager, running the nonprofit on a day-to-day basis. Dedicated, reliable, and compassionate, Stacey is the perfect manager, balancing her many duties at No Worries Now with her responsibilities as a paralegal. Stacey has a degree from Cal State Fullerton in Communications with an emphasis on marketing and advertising, and has served in the past as a designer and production manager at the Marshall Industries in-house advertising agency. She enjoys spending time with her kids – Rachael and Kendhal Paige, age 19 – especially white water rafting. She described herself as a “danceaholic,” putting her in the perfect position to provide a chance to dance for every teen through her work with No Worries Now. She hopes to see the organization grow into something that kids all over the country can be a part of.
Fred founded No Worries Now at the age of 15 in honor of his best friend Shiri Gumbiner, who passed away from a rare form of bone cancer. Fred is currently focusing on his studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
Sara currently lives in Alexandria, Virginia. Sara heard about No Worries Now from a media piece on CNN, and immediately contacted us to ask how she could help. Since then, she has been an active volunteer, and she now brings her incredible energy to the Board as the secretary. In addition to her duties on the Board, Sara is heading up the organization’s first “Prom in a Box,” hosting a Now Prom at Top of the Town in Washington, D.C., on June 11, 2012.
David is a Political Science Major at the University of California Davis. He graduated from La Cañada High School in 2012, where he was a member of his school’s newspaper, water polo team, and was captain of his swim team. David has competed in over 100 triathlon, and in his spare time enjoys volunteering, and playing ultimate frisbee. David hopes one day to attend law school. He is very excited to be working with No Worries Now.
Nick is currently living in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, where he is studying business management at Baker College, working as a development administrator for the Dearborn Animal Shelter, interning at the Make-a-Wish Foundation, and volunteering in the theater department at a local high school in addition to helping to organize the 2012 Now Prom in Detroit. In the past, he has worked as a conservation education presenter at Walt Disney World as well as a park safety officer at the Detroit Zoological Society. He has been volunteering since age 12, and in his spare time when he is not volunteering, he likes to have bonfires, run, and engage in outdoor activities. He is dedicated to helping No Worries Now cross state boundaries, describing the organization as “one of the most dedicated groups of people I have ever met.” With former experience at Disney, Nick loves making magic, and that is exactly what No Worries Now enables him to do.
Tina is the mother of Samantha Ashburn, No Worries Now’s beloved spokesgirl who passed away of bone cancer in 2011 shortly after her sixteenth birthday. Sammi attended three Now Proms in both Los Angeles and San Francisco, and did interviews for No Worries Now on CNN, ABC and the Early Show. In memory of Sammi, Tina is organizing a Now Prom in Sammi’s hometown in Sacramento County, with strong support from Sammi’s friends and the local community.
Margaret is helping to coordinate and fundraise for the first Sacramento-area No Worries Now prom, in memory of her best friend Samantha Ashburn, who passed away of osteosarcoma in 2011 shortly after her sixteenth birthday. As a junior at Pioneer High School, Margaret spends her free time enjoying water sports like water skiing and wake boarding. For Margaret, No Worries Now gives her the opportunity to grow as a person and help those who are going through what Sammi went through.
Krishan is an undergraduate at UCLA, where he is the Donations Chair for Global Medical Brigades, Community Service Coordinator for the Regents Scholar Society, and a research assistant at the Cardiac Arrhythmia Lab. He plans to pursue degrees in both Neuroscience and International Development Studies. He enjoys playing and watching sports, eating, and travelling, having visited nineteen countries on five continents. During Winter 2012, he went on a medical mission to Ghana, serving the people of a rural community called Ekumfi Abor. Inspired by a fellow Calabasas student who attended a No Worries Now prom as a patient, Krishan joined No Worries Now in 2011, helping to plan the Los Angeles 2012 prom. He is currently working to establish the Los Angeles Pairs Program.
Madison Dreshner is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Davis. She graduated from Arcadia High School in 2012, where she was captain of the swim team. Because of her leadership, athleticism, and philanthropy, she is a winner of the Jerry Broadwell Memorial Scholarship. She now works for the Associated Students of University of California, Davis as the assistant to the controller in the executive office. She has made the Dean’s Honors List every quarter she has been at Davis. Madison is also a member of the UC Davis Swim Club. She is very excited to co-chair San Francisco No Worries Now prom and start the first UC Davis No Worries Now club.
Jason was inspired to join No Worries Now by his sister, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma two years ago at the age of 17. As she went through chemo, losing all her hair and feeling drained of energy, one of her biggest goals was to attend her school’s senior prom. Unfortunately, she did not have a good experience at her own prom because she felt overwhelmed by being “different.” Jason is grateful that No Worries Now provides a truly amazing prom experience for teens in his sister’s situation. Currently, Jason is a freelance filmmaker and focus group coordinator for a market research company in Los Angeles. He worked with Australian pop star Sam Sparro on a television pilot in 2010, and that same year made a short film that went to international film festivals all over the world. Jason has a bachelor’s of science in digital filmmaking and video production from the Art Institute of California, Los Angeles. He has been extensively involved in philanthropic organizations, including coordinating events for Britney Snow’s Love is Louder campaign and Richard Branson’s Rock the Kasbah. Jason loves to travel, and eating out is his ultimate guilty pleasure. He balances a busy social life with relaxing yoga rituals. He dedicates a great deal of his time to helping others and raising his three-year-old Miniature Pinscher. His friends, as well as his dog, cite his dynamic, spontaneous personality and his intense drive towards success as the traits Jason brings to the Board of No Worries Now.
Bianca Philippi brings more than seventeen years of experience in business development, education and international marketing, including thirteen years in marketing research with organizations such as Olson Zaltman and Campbell Rinker. Bianca has extensive experience working across sectors on professional development, corporate social responsibility, philanthropy, global poverty and volunteerism. Bianca has worked with firms as varied as The Coca-Cola Company, Proctor and Gamble, Audi, Cessna, Chevron-Texaco, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Pfizer, Kimberly Clark, Hugo Boss, Escada, Intel, Microsoft, the Harvard Business School, Phillips Academy (Andover), The World Bank, CARE International, The Carter Center, NFTE (National Foundation for the Teaching of Entrepreneurship) and Opportunity International. She is an adjunct instructor at The College of the Canyons and the University of California, Los Angeles, Extension as well as the founder of Creative Insights. She studied at Boston University, Harvard University and the University of California, Los Angeles.
Lucene came to No Worries Now as a prom attendee. Diagnosed in January 2005 with a tumor on her optic nerve, Lucene immediately lost her eyesight. Since then, Lucene has developed an intense passion for volunteer work, and has logged more than 2,000 volunteer hours with various organizations, including Teen Impact, Extreme Mobility, the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, and Junior Statesmen of America. She has also been involved with a project of a Washington State school for the blind involving creating brail literature. Now 19, Lucene is starting her first year at the University of California, Los Angeles. When she isn’t volunteering, Lucene enjoys skiing, snowboarding and painting.
Lauren is studying graphic design at Pierce College and currently lives in the San Fernando Valley. She has a doodleblog, and enjoys visiting art galleries, going to shows and movies, gardening, baking, crocheting and doodling. She attended high school with No Worries Now Founder Fred Scarf and loves working with No Worries Now because of the hands-on nature of the organization.
Gina, a Los Angeles native, is the support and bereavement coordinator in the Mattel-UCLA Children’s Comfort Care Program. Gina has worked in New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles as a pediatric medical social worker since 1988. She is the proud mother of four daughters ranging in age from 8 to 18 years. Her husband, Fred, is a social worker and psychologist at the V.A. Hospital. Gina earned her bachelor’s degree at Kenyon College in Ohio and went on to get a double master’s in special education and social work from Columbia University School of Social Work and Bank Street College of Education. She has been on the board of Carrie On Day Camp and St. Matthew’s Day Camp. Gina has been working to get the support and bereavement services up and running in pediatrics at UCLA and has started a monthly staff support session, puts on an annual family memorial service and is introducing a family bereavement group in the fall in Westwood Village. Gina plays volleyball, hikes, bakes, and loves hanging out with her family, preferably by a body of water. Gina climbed Mt. Whitney in September 2008 starting at 2:30 a.m. and finishing the 14,000-foot climb by 6:30 p.m. later that day. Gina advises the No Worries Now board about how to best fulfill their mission of making teens with life-threatening illnesses feel less isolated.
Elana is currently a grant writer at College of the Canyons. In the past, she has served as the assistant director of communications and marketing at Glendale Community College, a public affairs specialist at California State University Dominguez Hills, public relations specialist at Angeles Girl Scout Council, and a public relations assistant at Jewish Family Services of Los Angeles. Elana is also the L.A. Kings’ #1 fan – or at least top 10, for sure.
In 2011, Bow moved back to her hometown of San Diego, CA. While attending college at the University of California, Berkeley, she met Now Worries Now Executive Director Marta Belcher through Bow’s own student-initiated, student-led, student-run mentorship program for which she served as the Executive Director from 2006-11. Bow’s work with her mentorship program served over 250 high school students in the Oakland area, providing one-on-one mentorship to students with limited resources in guiding them towards personal growth, helping their pursuits of educational opportunities and enriching their lives. Today, Bow enjoys managing a family-owned-and-operated small hospitality business and is dedicated to nurturing Now Worries Now San Diego. In her spare time, Bow enjoys spending time with her dog, dining out with friends, spending quality time with her family, and having fun at the gym.
Jordan Garst is a student at Pepperdine University studying Management, a licensed EMT, and a researcher in the UCLA Department of Neurosurgery under Dr. Daniel Lu. He also serves as a UCLA Health System Patient Transport Tech and has interned at St. Francis Medical Center. He has been an author on two professional medical publications. He speaks Spanish proficiently and has a strong interest in and enthusiasm for helping others through the medical profession.
Sam is a college student in Georgia who loves helping people and playing video games. Inspired by “Zeldathon,” Sam decided to organize a gaming marathon benefiting No Worries Now. The result was “Super Marathon 64,” a hugely successful fundraiser during which Sam and his friends live-stream their play of Nintendo 64 games to their website, www.supermarathon64.net, 24 hours a day for a week at a time. Each marathon involves players celebrating fundraising milestones by doing things like shaving their heads or dying their hair pink — both of which Sam has done for No Worries Now’s benefit. Each fundraiser has raised thousands of dollars for No Worries Now.
Michael is currently an undergraduate at the University of California, San Diego, where he works as a research assistant in a Cognitive Science Lab. He was inspired to join No Worries Now by his older sister, Marta, and volunteered at his first prom in 2012. Michael was the Copy Editor of his high school newspaper for 3 years and worked as a reporter and photographer for his town’s local paper, The Outlook. He plans to attend law school after college. He has participated in more than 100 triathlons and also enjoys playing frisbee in his spare time.