Why I Reach for Family Reach

My parents instilled the notion to always treat people well very early on. They also taught me that one of the best ways to do this is by cooking for others. In my mind, I'll be a successful parent if I can give my kids at the very least what my parents gave me. But more importantly, beyond setting a good example for my kids, showing them how to treat people kindly and teaching them how to #LeaveYourMark is extremely important. You have to leave the world a better place than when you got here. It’s through Family Reach that I plan to do this. Through Family Reach, I have seen a hidden financial crisis that no one talks about- the financial toxicity of cancer. As a parent, the worst thing you could hear are the words “your child has cancer”. Now imagine if you were a two income home and suddenly had to depend on a single income while one parent takes care of their child during treatment. The bills pile up and you have to wrestle with the fact that treating and curing your child’s cancer might bankrupt your family. This is where Family Reach steps in. They provide comprehensive financial support to these families to ensure they can keep a roof over their heads, put food on the table and maintain access to treatment, ultimately increasing their loved one’s chance of survival.

My journey with Family Reach began in 2010. I was contacted then Executive Director Carla Tardif about a young woman Darlene who was dying of osteosarcoma. One of Darlene's last wishes was to come to Blue Ginger and eat a meal I cooked for her and her family. Without hesitation, I said yes. This young woman instantly inspired me, and I hadn’t even met her yet. It was truly a special evening. Darlene looked amazing and you could tell it was a blessing for her and her family to be able to enjoy a delicious meal with no cancer talk. It was truly a celebration for them. I left that night feeling grateful that, for just two hours, I was able to provide this family a joyful, delicious and happy meal.

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Less than one month later Carla called to tell me about another family in dire need of help. Raquel, a single mom, dropped everything when her son was diagnosed with cancer. She stuck by his side, leaving her job to be with him for the month of inpatient treatment. Unable to keep up with expenses as his battle forged on, Raquel and Mikalo were forced to move into a homeless shelter while he continued receiving chemotherapy for two years. Raquel was told by Mikalo's doctor that in order for him to live, he needed a bone marrow transplant. The kicker was that because of the sanitary conditions in the homeless shelter, the doctor couldn't safely administer the procedure without a guarantee they would be living in a sterile environment post-transplant. You can't tell a mom, "Sorry, your son is going to die,” when there is a known cure. Family Reach stepped in, got them out of the homeless shelter and into their own apartment. Upon hearing this story, I knew I had to get involved and help beyond cooking a nice meal for families in the restaurant. I knew I had to be part of this incredible organization that doesn't just help families in need, but becomes the financial lifeline families depend on to stay afloat during cancer treatment. I couldn't fathom not being able to get to treatment because of gas and parking costs, or splitting pills in half because the cost of the medication is too high. It's not charity, it's humanity to provide these family's the assistance they need to get to the other side of cancer. Mikalo and Raquel sealed the deal for me and I haven't looked back since. Every time I see Mikalo, he gives me the biggest hug. Seeing him as a thriving and successful kid ready to make a difference in the world, that's why I do it. 

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Today, I’ve raised over 6 million dollars for Family Reach through various events including an event called Cooking Live! It’s an incredible night featuring celebrity chefs that prepare a multi-course meal live in the center of the Ritz-Carlton ballroom with the help of local children battling cancer. The young heroes play sous-chef for a night while sharing their inspiring stories of hope, determination and courage. It’s an amazing evening and I look forward to the various Cooking Live! Events around the country throughout the year.

Family Reach isn’t just a charity, in fact, it's a mission. It’s an organization with extremely hardworking, caring and talented people that strive to not just make the world a better place, but to shoot for the stars. Their goal is not just to end the financial burden families fighting cancer face, but to solve the crisis and prevent families from reaching that point of financial devastation in the first place. Family Reach is always close to my heart - the logo is embroidered on the left side of my chef jacket. I’m also a member of their Key Holder program and I carry their keychain with me wherever I go to remind me of the importance of this mission.

Please take some time to look through Family Reach’s website, their upcoming events and ways to get involved. 

Peace and Good Eating, 

Chef Ming Tsai