Older man and woman with light skin tone smile as they pose for a picture in front of a lush garden and gazebo

Oscar and Toni Sanchez

Hospital News

How a Devastating Diagnosis Inspired a Generous Gift

By establishing multiple charitable remainder unitrusts, Toni and Oscar Sanchez have created a legacy at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Toni and Oscar Sanchez both grew up in families that struggled to make ends meet. So when they got married, they were determined to create a financially secure future for themselves. They found well-paying jobs—and began investing in real estate. Over the next two decades, they built an impressive portfolio of properties to help them reach their financial goals. But as they neared retirement, Oscar received a devastating diagnosis: He had cancer.

The news spurred the couple to reexamine their priorities. They wanted to reduce the burden of being landlords, ensure lifelong income—and create a philanthropic legacy to support organizations they care deeply about, like Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

A new perspective on life

In the fall of 1998, Oscar began experiencing persistent back pain and bloating. After consultations with multiple doctors, they found tumors in Oscar’s pancreas.

“The symptoms, to me, didn’t seem that serious,” says Oscar. “But this diagnosis really made me stop and think about our future.”

Oscar immediately underwent surgery to remove the tumors, but unfortunately the procedure was unsuccessful. Doctors gave him six to 18 months to live and placed him on radiation treatment and chemotherapy. Together, Oscar and Toni began to think about what was important to them and how to minimize the stress of maintaining the multiple apartment complexes they owned.

“We wanted to make the most of our limited time together,” says Toni. "We wanted the freedom of traveling and seeing the world.”

They also wanted to use their success to help others. “We thought, ‘Well, we have all of this property—we have all of this money—let’s share it with people who don’t have the resources,’” says Toni.

The couple met with a financial adviser, who recommended placing their properties in charitable remainder unitrusts (CRUTs). By creating CRUTs, the couple would avoid capital gains taxes from the sale of the properties and receive steady income for the rest of their lives. This solution would alleviate the burden of property management and provide them with the resources to travel. At the end of their lifetimes, the remaining money will be distributed to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and other charities of choice.

A special place

Toni and Oscar hold Children’s Hospital Los Angeles close to their hearts and considered their connection to CHLA when determining the beneficiaries of their philanthropy.

When Toni was a young girl, one of her family members was treated at Children’s Hospital after a terrible accident. The child spent months undergoing plastic surgery, and Toni has always been grateful to the doctors and nurses who provided endless compassion and support to her family.

When Oscar was 11 years old, he stayed at a convalescent home in Los Angeles for three months to recover from an illness. During this time, Oscar participated in and won the “Little Tyke” cattle-naming competition run by the Las Hermanas Guild, which supports Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

In addition to the couple’s fond memories of CHLA’s caregivers and their commitment to every patient, Toni and Oscar prioritized giving back to organizations devoted to supporting underserved families in Southern California. Children’s Hospital Los Angeles was a perfect match for their philanthropic goals.

Cementing their legacy

One year following Oscar’s initial radiation treatments and chemotherapy, doctors found no masses or traces of cancer in his body. “My tumor markers returned to normal levels,” recalls Oscar. “It was a miracle!”

Even after Oscar’s recovery two decades ago, he and Toni have continued to give back.

Charitable remainder unitrusts have created stability for the couple, allowing them to spend time together and providing reliable resources to continue their travels. Their planned gifts are also creating an enduring legacy of support for future children and families in need of care at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. They hope to inspire others to give generously in their own ways.

“Oscar and I were very poor growing up, and we know a lot of people are still experiencing financial hardships,” says Toni. “Our investments are meant to give children and families a chance to get ahead. We want them to know people are out there willing to help.”

“While it’s impossible to predict the future,” adds Oscar, “we hope our generosity will inspire today’s kids to give back one day and never forget the help they received at Children’s Hospital. That’s the kind of legacy we’re hoping to leave.”

For more information on making a planned gift to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, contact Steven Adamian, JD, Associate Senior Vice President of Planned Giving, at 323-361-1749 or visit CHLA.org/PlannedGiving.

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This article is featured in the Summer 2023 issue of Imagine magazine.