The André Sobel River of Life Foundation (ASRL) responds to the requests of single parents whose children are experiencing a life-threatening medical crisis.
We work with pre-selected pediatric medical facilities. Their social workers assess and recommend families to our Foundation when financial assistance offered by other resources is exhausted.
ASRL is able to respond to the immediate needs of these families promptly and without additional paperwork. The variety of requests we receive can range from a wig for a self-conscious teenager returning to school after chemotherapy, to an airline ticket for a grandparent’s visit, or something more substantial like the funds to pay rent or protect a home from foreclosure.
ASRL believes that Compassion Can't Wait, and responds to requests for financial assistance in 24 hours. ASRL pays vendors directly: landlords for overdue rent payments, mortgage companies for monthly mortgage payments, insurers for auto and health premiums, and more for despairing single parent families.
*"When compassion can't wait and single parent families are in despair, we help with urgent expenses to allow these caregivers to remain at their child's bedside during catastrophic illness."
André Sobel was a remarkable young man who had
natural dignity, an unconventional sense of humor and a promising future. He was also the beloved
son of Erwin and Valerie Sobel and brother to Simone. André’s young life ended just one year after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. He was 17.
To honor André, and out of their deep love and respect for him, his family established the André Sobel River of Life Foundation. Erwin Sobel died within a year of his son and their tragic deaths served to strengthen Valerie Sobel's desire to help parents of children with life threatening illnesses. She serves as President of the Foundation.
ASRL's family assistance program operates through 12 pediatric hospitals across the nation. Financially distressed single parent families whose children are in active treatment for any condition are referred by their social worker to recieve ASRL financial assistance funds -- available in 24 hours. The purpose of ASRL assistance is to allow the single parent to remain with the child during treatment rather than worrying about finances. ASRL assistance typically prevents families from eviction, foreclosure, homelessness and other destabilizing risks (car repossession, poor nutrition, lack of transportation etc., ) during their child's medical treatment.
ASRL's Everyday Needs Assistance Program is specifically tailored to assist single parent families of children with cancer who are struggling finanically. Assistance is available to qualifying families treated at any pediatric hospital in the USA by referral to ASRL from their social worker. This program is generously funded by a grant from Genentech.
ASRL's Andre Sobel Essay Award annually awards a prestigious prize to teen and young survivors of catastrophic illness. Entrants from across the nation are invited to submit an essay on a topic, usually releated to an aspect of friendship in the face of illness. A national panel of prestigious judges, drawn from the fields of medicine, journalism, literature, film and parenting judge the award. This year's judges included Dr. Deepak Chopra, Artist Patience Brewster, Filmmaker Tatiana von Furstenberg, Author Lisa See and pediatric specialist Dr. Esteban Fuertes. First place winner Amanda Holland's essay, and essays from winners of past years are posted on the ASRL website. This cash award is to be used in any way the recipients choose. We hope that this gift will help them to fulfill a cherished desire as they proceed with their lives in a way that was not possible for André.
ASRL is all about impact:
-2,600 families have been assisted since 2000.
-The average grant to help a qualified family bridge
a severe financial crisis is $1800.
-Housing, transportation, and food assistance are
the most common forms of assistance.
-Siblings are important too, and ASRL makes a
special effort to provide attention -- via the gift
of an art class, guitar lessons or a laptop computer - - to ease the often unspoken stress of siblings
of children with life threatening illness.
-Over $3.7 million in program support has helped
9,300 family members since 2000.
Goals This Year
1) To increase our assistance to 550 families in 2009.
2) To continue to respond to increased need due to the fallout of a depressed economy.
3) To partner with a sponsor for our 2009 Andre Sobel Essay Award which honors teen survivors of catastrophic illnesses.
Chief Executive Profile
Valerie Sobel fled her native Hungary during the 1956 uprising against the Soviet communist regime, eventually settling in Toronto, Canada. She vividly remembers that time. She recalls carrying her younger brother on her back while walking eight miles with her parents through a marsh, then crossing the forbidden border to the safety of Austria. After the elation of the escape, there were many months in refugee camps.
In high school, Valerie was interested in acting. Through a fortuitous encounter, she was flown to Los Angeles for a screen test and won a role in “Mr. Hobbs takes a vacation” with Jimmy Stewart. In 1962 she became a California resident and lived there ever since. Marriage was followed with the birth of her son Andre and her daughter, Simone. She left film to focus on her family, and then developed a successful career in interior design, with projects appearing in several books and magazines including Architectural Digest. As a “keepsake from that career,” she remains a member of American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).
Her life was changed forever the day her teenage son Andre was diagnosed with a malignant and inoperable brain tumor. A year later, in 1995, the family suffered his devastating loss. Shortly thereafter Valerie’s mother died, and a year later to the date of Andre’s death, her husband Erwin, 54, took his own life. Through the subsequent periods of crushing grief, Valerie sought to re-direct her life. What continues to haunt her from that time was looking into the faces of the children who were alone in hospitals: feeling their fears, their pain, their treatments, and at times even their own deaths -- alone. As a rule, these were children of single parents/ single caregivers.
Valerie Sobel, President and Founder
Dr. Esteban Fuertes, Member
Mr. Tim Holcer, Member
Mr. Gary Bess, Member
Anne Swire, CEO, Liaison to the Board
National Advisory Council:
Dr. Thomas Vayda
Medical Advisory Council
Dr. Chris Landon
Dr. Nancy Mansfield
Dr. Lonnie Zeltzer
Andre Sobel Award National Judges Panel:
Dr. Deepak Chopra
Dr. Esteban Fuertes
Tatiana von Furstenberg
Judges Advisor: Analise Rigan
Award Advisor: Keven Schnadig
Countries of Operation
States of Operation
California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, American Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Marshall Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico, U.S. Minor Outlying Islands, Virgin Islands of the U.S.