Should Sign Hill Tree Continue to be Lit for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September? 

South San Francisco, CA  August 18, 2021 by Angelique Presidente, ESC

What’s the fate of Light Tree for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September?

We’ve been told it will not be lit for the first time in seven years!

Having fought Neuroblastoma like the warrior she was for much of her life, Juliana gained her angel wings at the tender age of two.


Our Sign Hill tree was originally lit in September for Juliana Peña, our very own princess warrior who battled Neuroblastoma cancer. Juliana passed away on February 24, 2012, after just 33 months and 3 days of life.


SSF Councilwoman Liza Normandy had requested our City proclaim Sept as National Childhood Cancer in 2014


In 2014 Councilwoman Liza Normandy helped facilitate our City proclaiming September as National Childhood Cancer Month. This was immediately approved by Mayor Karyl Matsumoto who lit the tree for the first time, and along with our City Council, vowed to make South San Francisco a supporter in the efforts to bring more awareness to Childhood Cancer.


Juliana’s parents, Jesus & Patricia at the podium on top of the Miller Ave Parking Garage as Sign Hill Tree was being lit. Councilmember Gupta, Mayor Matsumoto, Vice Mayor Garbarino, Councilmember Addiego
{This photo was taken by Rick Ochsenhirt, who also lost life to cancer}


This effort was further supported by the Proclamations made by California State, thanks to the efforts of Assemblymember Kevin Mullin and Senator Jerry Hill, and within San Mateo County, thanks to SMC Supervisor David Canepa. Other Cities have since joined the support of September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness.


These officials, representatives, declared September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, including the passing of SCR 133 by California Senator Jerry Hill to officially recognize the month. President Obama also committed to supporting the awareness. And for the first time, President Trump lit the White House gold for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month last year


Community members gathered on top of the Miller parking garage to watch Sign Hill Tree lit in honor of September Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Photo: Rick Ochsenhirt {RIP}


For the following seven years, the sitting mayors of South San Francisco had elected to light our tree on top of Sign Hill in support of children and their families who have been affected by Childhood Cancer. Juliana was only one of them.


Jordan Ponce was only 11 years old when he died last year on September 27th after battling childhood cancer, Ewing’s Sarcoma. Please keep his life a memory.


South City’s Jordan Ponce died on September 27, 2020, from Ewing’s Sarcoma, leaving his family devastated. They made the trek up Sign Hill to see the lit tree last year. They knew their son was not forgotten.  You can read Jordan’s story HERE, please remember him. And his parents, and family.


There are so many of our children that have battled cancer, and while we may not know all of their names, we do understand to some level the amount of suffering the children and their families have endured. Our own former Mayor Richard Garbarino and his family were touched by childhood cancer, and it is so fortunate that his granddaughter has made a full recovery.


This lit tree stands for remembering those who have fought.

Those who have won, those who have not.

The lit tree is a beacon of hope to so many.



We’ve been told this September, Mayor Addiego has elected to not light the tree.


The reason given for not lighting the tree is the Mayor believes attention can be gained from lighting City Hall gold. Yet we have to ask, how can this be when people from across the Peninsula, as well as those flying into San Francisco International Airport, can see Light Tree all throughout September. You can only see City Hall lit if you’re in its immediate vicinity.


With neighboring cities, as well as County and State representatives – and the President – acknowledging the need for more awareness, the lights from our tree help serve this purpose. We continually have had people from all around ask ‘Why are the lights lit on the tree in September?’ offering a teaching moment.


We cannot fight our children’s battles but we can be their champion to be sure their plight is known so more funding will help them.


Did you know only 4% of cancer funding goes to CHILDHOOD cancer? Did you know every day FORTY-THREE will be diagnosed with cancer in the US?


SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality Data.

In 2019—

  • 1,115 children younger than 15 years old died of cancer.
  • 9,084 adolescents and young adults between 15 to 39 years old died of cancer.
  • 153,928 adults between 40 to 64 years old died of cancer
  • 435,462 adults who were 65 years old or older died of cancer.

Note: Age was not recorded for 12 deaths.


Most people do not know this, which is why it is so important that we use every outreach we can.

As the biotech capital of the world – South San Francisco has a very unique position – and our children are depending on us.

Have you or someone you’ve known been affected by Childhood Cancer? Please help Mayor Addiego, and our representatives, realize that this is an important issue that we care about and how disappointed we are as a community that he has chosen to not fully support it as his predecessors.

You can reach out to our Mayor at:
Phone: (650) 829-6601 Email:

Contact our City Council members CLICK HERE

To be part of official records send a copy to our City Clerk Rosa Acosta HERE

And a copy to Everything South City if you choose HERE

{EDIT 8/19/21 9:53pm links}

To all our children who are suffering from Cancer, to all the parents and families fighting this fight with, and for your child, we stand with you. It is our hope that our Sign Hill Tree is lit once again offering hope to us all.

Our children deserve it.

If you are on social media, please consider using one of these graphics to help bring awareness to this horrific disease that continues to rob our children of their childhood. Please access some of our links to learn more and what you can do, beyond being ‘aware’, to help our children live the life they were meant to live.

Because kids get cancer too.

Facts About Childhood Cancer


If you have links to share, or stories to tell, of those you would like us to remember, please comment below or write to us at




0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

[…] of California. That same year President Obama also signed the Proclamation, and for the first time, President Trump lit the White House gold for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in […]

Vicki Mahoney
Vicki Mahoney
2 years ago

My son wasn’t a young child when he died from leukemia at 26 but he will always be my baby. I hope the Mayor will light city hall and the tree on sign hill.

Last edited 2 years ago by Vicki Mahoney
2 years ago

Light the tree! In the city that is the birthplace to Biotech and Life Science, working so hard to find cures!

Denise Villa
Denise Villa
2 years ago

Light the tree!!!

Jim Mueller
Jim Mueller
2 years ago

Please light the tree!

mel perry
mel perry
2 years ago

YES, the sick and their relatives need a
symbol, to rally around, for hope