Breast Cancer Survivors Find Hope and Healing with Send Me On Vacation and Grand Pacific Resorts

In June 2014, Grand Pacific Resorts forged a new partnership with Send Me On Vacation (SMOV) when it sent Teresa Ponce, a 34-year-old breast cancer survivor, on an all-expenses paid family vacation to Carlsbad Beach Inn Resort in Carlsbad, California.

For Teresa, who grew up in California, returning home was the first step towards healing the emotional scars of breast cancer. Traveling with her mother Mary and daughter Danessa made the experience that much more special. As Teresa explains, “The trip gave me and my mother the chance to catch our breath, recharge our batteries, and create memories that will last longer than we do in the life of Danessa.” Five-year-old Danessa saw the ocean for the first time, and together the family played in the waves, visited San Diego’s theme parks, and simply lounged in the sun at Carlsbad Beach Inn.

The vacation provided a welcome respite from the trials of breast cancer. “Due to the severe nausea and bone weakness that chemotherapy causes, some days I am unable to take care of myself, much less my daughter.” Mary has provided invaluable support to Teresa during this time, in spite of the fact that she is herself a four-time cancer survivor and recently underwent chemotherapy and a double mastectomy.  “My mother deserves a vacation more than anyone, including myself,” Teresa wrote in her SMOV application.

Teresa is unable to work due to her illness, and she receives just enough disability income to pay for her family’s basic needs. A vacation was out of the question before she applied for SMOV. With help from Grand Pacific Resorts, SMOV provided Teresa and her family with a seven-night stay at Carlsbad Beach Inn Resort, round-trip airfare, and spending money to cover meals and activities. Grand Pacific Resorts also stocked Teresa’s condo with groceries, and our in-house photographer captured touching images of the three generations frolicking on the beach together.

BeCause Destination Matters

Grand Pacific Resorts has a long history of giving back. In fact, we’ve been involved with Christel House, a global non-profit led by the founder of RCI, since it began in 1998. But this year Grand Pacific Resorts is expanding our giving program, BeCause Destination Matters, to include additional organizations such as Send Me On Vacation, the Mālie Foundation, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. All three serve the communities where we have resorts, as part of our initiative to give back to the destinations we serve.

According to SMOV founder and president Cathy Backus, sending breast cancer survivors on vacation is a “win-win” for everyone involved. With SMOV, resorts donate their non-performing inventory to a good cause, and women who could never afford a vacation enjoy some much-needed time away with their families. It’s all part of Cathy’s ingenious plan, which was spurred by her best friend Pam Horwitz’s fight against breast cancer and Cathy’s own connections in the timeshare industry.

“Pam is a two-time survivor,” Cathy explains.  “In 2010, after the second round of breast cancer, we went to my timeshare in Cabo. Pam came back a different person. It really helped her find her new normal. I decided I needed to make this something bigger.” At the time, Cathy was the director of the timeshare division of a travel insurance company, and she drew on her personal relationships with developers, travel clubs, and exchange companies to provide the first trips to survivors in 2011. Since then, the organization has sent more than 100 women on vacation.

Today, Cathy is expanding her network of supporters to include airlines, cruise lines, hotels, and tour companies. Her goal is to send 365 women on vacation next year, and she says that Grand Pacific Resorts has helped raise awareness of SMOV in the timeshare industry by providing vacations for survivors such as Teresa. SMOV is also partnering with The Tigerlily Foundation and The Why Foundation to provide complementary support and education for women at every stage of breast cancer treatment.

“A vacation is life changing for anyone,” says Cathy. “But breast cancer or any kind of critical illness magnifies that by 1,000 percent.” Grand Pacific Resorts has always been committed enhancing lives through extraordinary experiences, and we look forward to doing exactly that for more breast cancer survivors through our new partnership with SMOV.

For more information on Send Me On Vacation, please visit