Staying at home for almost a whole year as all of us know, has not been easy, but imagine quarantining for years from a young age. Imagine if you had no choice because at ten years old, you were diagnosed with leukemia. That, 19-year-old Bags of Love Foundation founder and cancer survivor Julian Castaneda said, is a reality he knows all too well.
“Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I was like any other kid: having fun, living the dream,” Castaneda said. “But when you’re diagnosed with cancer, everything gets taken away from you. You’re not able to go outside and you’re not able to go places.”
After three-and-a-half years of treatment at Valley Children’s Hospital and two years of remission, Castaneda's cancer came back at sixteen. The chemo didn’t work this time, so he received a bone marrow transplant at City of Hope. He’s been in remission ever since.
Such an experience could have devastated someone at such an impressionable age. Instead, Castaneda aimed to spread the love his parents gave him throughout the fight, even if it came in a small package.
“That’s one of the main reasons I started the bags of love foundation, because I noticed when I was a child, not all of the patients there have their families with them at all times. So to have an organization really be there for you with scholarships and care packages, it really makes a difference in their lives,” Castaneda said.
The Bags of Love Foundation started as a school club, his junior and senior of high school to raise money for Valley Children’s Hospital.
“I started selling shirts at football games, just anything I could get my hands on. We made enough to donate 200 bags, which we delivered last year,” Castaneda said. “The care packages include pop sockets, hats, coloring books, games, things to keep the child busy and give them something else to do and think about.”
Battling cancer has taught castaneda that even when times get tough, anything is possible. So, with schoolwork at CSU Northridge and during a global pandemic, he’s found ways to raise funds for the organization through a drive-in Christmas movie night at Sam Lynn Ballpark..
Castaneda hopes to raise 10,000 dollars to create 600 care packages. He adds that the foundation is 2000 dollars away from their goal. If it’s successful, they hope to do a drive-in for Valentine’s Day too. So far, the foundation has raised almost 20,000 dollars since its genesis.
The movie starts at 6:00 p.m. this Saturday. Tickets are 10 dollars and can be purchased here.