Helping Kids Be Kids

And making cancer treatments suck a little less

Since it was established 15 years ago, the Los Cabos Children’s Foundation has invested $15 million USD in local programs that help improve children’s quality of life, with a focus on health. But unlike most other non-profits, which raise money for their own programs, the LCCF uses the donations it gets to support and strengthen other community programs.

The LCCF recently announced its 26 grantees for 2017-18, and over the next year the Gringo Gazette will be featuring each of these organizations, explaining  the work they do. In this issue, we are profiling Fundación Mark, which raises money to build play rooms in hospitals for children undergoing cancer treatments.

kidsbigc.JPGBeing diagnosed with cancer and going through treatment is hard on anyone, but it’s especially tough on children who don’t always fully understand what is happening to them and why. Well, the why part is hard for all of us to understand. While they’re in the hospital having their medical needs attended to, their emotional needs can get ignored. That’s where Fundación Mark comes in.

“These kids spend a lot of time in the hospital, and they need places where they can play and relax and just be kids,” says Sonia Zuani, the organization’s president and founder.

Fundación Mark has three objectives: To reduce the negative emotional consequences children might experience from the cancer and its treatment; to give them something productive they can do during their hospital stay; and to encourage family and social integration. That last part is especially important, since kids often have to stay in the hospital for so long or so often that they can’t go to school, see their friends, or spend much time with their siblings.

Fundación Mark raises money so hospitals can build brightly colored playrooms full of toys, books and computers, where kids can play, make crafts and watch movies with their families and other kids going through cancer treatment. Fundación Mark also organizes daily activities for the children, including reading, music and art workshops, and has celebrations for their birthdays, Christmas and Children’s Day (which is a big holiday here in Mexico).

And for kids who have to go through more extreme treatment that requires sterile isolations, like a bone marrow transplant, Fundación Mark volunteers bring them baskets of goodies that they can use to entertain themselves, like games, books and toys.

Fundación Mark is more than just a job to Zuani; it’s her mission and her son’s legacy. The organization is named after her son, Mark, who was diagnosed with leukemia when he was six. He went through two years of treatments, both in private and government hospitals here in Mexico before going to the U.S. for further treatment. When Mark was eight, he asked Sonia to start the foundation, so he could work for it when he was older. He wanted to help other kids like him.

Fundación Mark was officially established in 2006, on the same day that Mark passed away.

Fundación Mark is based in Mexico City, and they have already established nine play areas in different hospitals on the mainland. Now, they’re hoping to expand the operation to Baja and install a play area in the Salvatierra Hospital in La Paz. The problem, Sonia says, is that BCS is so far from Mexico City that they’re having a hard time getting their regular donors emotionally connected to this project. She hopes that by partnering with the LCCF, she can spread the word around Baja and get some local donors.

If you’d like to make a donation to Mark’s Foundation, visit their website’s donation page at (the website is in Spanish, so click on Donar). To learn more about the work of the Los Cabos Children’s Foundation, visit their website at