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Making a Mark
Making a Mark is published bi-annually by the CHOC Foundation. It features CHOC and children?s healthcare news, patient highlights, hospital updates, board member spotlights, and community involvement stories and is mailed to donors who support CHOC with a gift of $250 and more.

Hugs from Shaun Foundation Honors Teen Shaun Tanner

Seventeen-year-old Shaun Tanner was the typical all-American boy. He attended high school in Huntington Beach, where he won numerous sports and inspirational awards and earned the nickname “the Tank.” He was given this name by his teammates on the football team, who didn’t worry about the opposing team tackling their quarterback because “the Tank” was playing center.

After graduation, Shaun was looking forward to attending Orange Coast College, where he was to play center on their football team. That dream came to a sudden halt on July 3, 2001, when Shaun was diagnosed with an extremely rare cancer called Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumor, an aggressive disease that, at that time, had only attacked approximately 1,000 people. It predominantly affects adolescent males, and has a survival rate of less than 20%.

Under the care of CHOC oncologist Violet Chen, MD; and Leonard Sender, MD, CHOC Division Chief of Oncology, Shaun spent his 18th birthday getting his first dose of chemotherapy. According to Shaun’s parents, Ralph and Terri, he received the most loving and compassionate care at CHOC— and he kept his doctors and nurses on their toes.

“Shaun had the nurses wrapped around his little finger. They spoiled him rotten and he loved every minute of it,” Shaun’s parents recall.

Shaun finished chemotherapy in January of 2002, followed by a stem cell transplant in February. Doctors thought Shaun had won his battle with cancer, and Shaun and his family were ready to go on with their lives.

“Unfortunately, that did not seem to be in God’s plan,” Terri says. In April of 2002, the Tanner’s nightmare began all over again. Shaun’s cancer returned with a vengeance, and this time it was growing more rapidly than before.

Shaun fought his battle to the fullest, and in September 2002, Terri and Ralph Tanner lost their son to his painful disease. According to Shaun’s parents, “the disease never took his love for life or his dignity, and for that we are eternally grateful.”

The Tanners created Hugs from Shaun, Inc., a cancer research foundation, in memory of their son, and raised $20,000 for the CHOC Cancer Institute at the first annual “Hugs from Shaun” fundraiser. The Tanners chose the name because of the big bear hugs Shaun was known for giving. They also pledged $50,000 for the new Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) area in the Oncology Unit at CHOC.

The Rainbow Room on the Oncology floor at CHOC, a hospice room for terminally ill patients, is dedicated to Shaun and fellow adolescent cancer patient Jack Wolpin.

According to the Tanners, “there’s a lot of research being done for pediatric and adult cancer, but not much for adolescents. The money raised through Shaun’s foundation will benefit adolescent cancer research.”


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chocChildren's Hospital of Orange County | UCI University of California, Irvine

Children's Hospital of Orange County is affiliated with UC Irvine Healthcare and UC Irvine School of Medicine

CHOC Children's - 1201 W La Veta Ave, Orange, CA. Phone: 714-997-3000. .