Community unites in support of 4-year-old boy with brain cancer

(Photo courtesy of Student Development)

Kylie Corbett


Saddleback College’s faculty came together this past summer to lend a helping hand to Director of Student Development, Audra DiPadova, and her family situation.

Max, her 4-year-old son, was diagnosed with brain cancer at the beginning of August, according to Erin Long, Inter-Club Council adviser and senior administrative assistant.

She described Max as a lively kid who has lots of friends and loves to play outside.

When administration found out about his condition, they realized the importance of DiPadova needing time to spend with her son. As a result, they began trying to donate a large amount of sick leave time to her.

During the process however, classified staff members were told that they couldn’t donate sick leave time to her because of a board policy regarding catastrophic leave.


Faculty and staff now have another way to help a four-year-old boy in his on-going fight against brain cancer.

Since last summer, Saddleback College staff and students have assisted the Director of Student Development, Audra DiPadova, and her sick son Max, by staging a variety of fundraisers.

Carmenmara Hernandez Bravo, a Spanish instructor, also came up with the idea of donating sick leave days to DiPadova for her to be with Max.

But it required an act of Congress, in other words, district approval.

On Nov. 7, Debra Fitzsimons, vice chancellor of business services for the South Orange County Community College District, after two months of discussion, said that it would be okay to do so.

Erin Long, a colleague of DiPadova’s, believes that the policy change was an important process because it creates a community atmosphere within the district.

“Anyone in this circumstance who needs to be with a sick family member, but also needs to provide for their family would be incredibly grateful for the gift of a colleague’s sick time,” Long said. “I know that Audra has, on numerous occasions, been completely humbled by the outpouring of support from everyone across the campus.”

DiPadova pondered her son’s diagnosis.

“What are the chances that your child will be one of 3,000 kids diagnosed with brain cancer each year in the U.S.?” DiPadova asked herself.

DiPadova described this experience as beyond challenging…and earth shattering. With all of the support they’ve received however, she believes her family is incredibly fortunate.

Max’s prognosis is a good one, DiPadova said.

“It’s our community that’s made Max’s treatment possible,” DiPadova said. “I don’t know where we’d be without the excellent health benefits, donations of time and resources, gifts of food, and outpouring of love and life-sustaining support.”

Student Development will be hosting the “Super Max Benefit Showcase” Dec. 7 in honor of Max.

The showcase will include performances from the Saddleback community, “ranging from dance groups to singers to improv groups and everything in between,” according to its event description.

Other people outside of DiPadova’s familly have been affected by the news of Max’s prognosis.

Former Associated Student Government President, Melissa Fenerci, said that she had no idea how to help when she found out about Max’s condition, until she learned of this event.

“I personally feel happy to be able to pay forward all of the nice things that Audra has done for

me and for people I love and care about,” Fenerci said.

“Audra specifically has helped change my life and has contributed tremendous efforts to my personal development, as well as the personal development of many ASG members from 2008-2011 thus far,” she said.

DiPadova said that there are no sufficient words to capture her family’s gratitude.

“We really see how it takes a community to save a child’s life,” she said. “We’re completely humbled by how the Saddleback community, including some people we’ve never met, have so significantly contributed to Max’s recovery.”


Location: SSC 212 

Date: Dec. 7, 2011

Time: 6 to 9 p.m. The doors open at 5 p.m.

Tickets:  $ 5 

Anyone is welcome.

Food and beverages will be served for a suggested donation price.

At the tailgate event before Saddleback’s homecoming game, donations were collected for 4-year-old Max Wilford. (Alyssa Hunter)

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