Susana Della Maddalena

Barbara H. Wuebbels, Nominator

“When you’ve had cancer you realize all too well that everything you have today could easily be gone tomorrow, Against very low odds, I survived, and I felt a strong obligation to use that gift well by helping other cancer patients find hope and perhaps, recovery.”

Susana’s desire to reach out to others started with her own illness. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at 31. When her cancer appeared, Susana turned to a Wellness Community in Santa Monica, Calif. The international non-profit organization provides free support, education and counseling for cancer patients in a home-like setting. Her faith in its principals was tested again when the cancer resurfaced in her spine two years later. Given a 10 percent chance of survival, she underwent a stem cell transplant and went into remission. She then was asked to start a Wellness Community Program in Phoenix. In a span of two years, Susana rallied citizens to raise more than $400,000 to start theCentral Arizona Wellness Community. Since opening its doors in 1999, it has served 30,000 people. Today, it is opening a new teen center for youth 13 years and older who have cancer. She has volunteered more than 30 hours a week at the Wellness Community while working a full-time job. In addition, in 2002, she founded the non-profit Friends of Animal Care and Control (FACCS) to raise money to support lifesaving programs for Maricopa County’s Animal Care and Control agency.