Our theme for 2023 is Thriving Together and during this time, we’ll present stories and featured webinars on how our patients & caregivers are thriving as they live with GIST and how we can help each other together through encouragement and support.

Vicky Ossio & Marcelo Levy. La Senda Verde

La Senda Verde co-founders Vicky Ossio & Marcelo Levy

Caregiver Vicky Ossio shares her passion for rescuing and rehoming animals who were confiscated due to  illegal trafficking and the destruction of their habitats. With co-founder Marcelo Levy, this sanctuary has sheltered hundreds of displaced animals and worked toward providing a diverse, natural setting through progressive conservation called rewilding.

Vicky came to know The Life Raft Group through her daughter Carolina, who was diagnosed with GIST in 2006 at age 27. She and Carolina have attended many Life Fest weekends and GDOLs and have been active volunteers with the LRG throughout the years.

Vicky shared:

“Attending Life Fest only a few months after Carolina’s diagnosis was crucial for us. We attended the first event very nervous, not knowing exactly what were we doing there. Only five minutes after registration we felt embraced by so much love and care we just couldn’t believe it. Jim & Margi Hughes registered us and then followed us wondering which one was the patient. They had lost her daughter only a few months before, and “adopted” Carolina and myself immediately.

Meeting John Poss, Norman, Novartis CEO Dan Vasella, Dr. Jon Trent, Richard Palmer, Tom O, among so many other Gisters, caregivers and LRG staff members that stayed forever in our hearts was just amazing. I remember telling my daughter: “I never thought that GIST could mean something positive to us, but thanks to GIST we met the most wonderful people in the world!.” This is how we felt at the end of Life Fest 2006, not to mention all we learned about the disease and how to live with it.

After this experience, we attended Life Fest 2008 in Chicago, Life Fest 2010 in New Jersey, Life Fest 2012 in Las Vegas, Life Fest 2014 in New Jersey, and I am thrilled to confirm that Carolina and myself will be attending our sixth Life Fest 2016 in California, 10 years after Carolina’s diagnosis.  And in 2008 Alianza GIST (in collaboration with the LRG) was formed and we met many wonderful people from many South American companies.

I encourage old and especially newly diagnosed GISTers to participate in Life Fest. I promise, Life Fest will change your life for the best.”

Vicky and Marcelo will share a view of Senda Verde to our community on January 18th at 10am. Everyone is welcome to join and enjoy this presentation with a live Q&A to follow. During our tour, we will meet birds, reptiles, monkeys and other big mammals, like bears and big cats. They will also make a quick visit to the see the native stingless bees, and the butterfly farm.

Senda Verde was established in 2003 in the eastern subtropical region of the Bolivian Andes in South America. Concerned about the urgent need to do something meaningful in favor of the natural world, Vicky and Marcelo decided to take hands-on action. They decided to devote their energy, effort and work to that noble and inspiring task: saving and sheltering wild animals rescued from illegal trafficking and destruction of habitats.

Senda Verde shelters approximately one thousand wild animals. This sanctuary exits to save and shelter animals rescued from illegal trafficking and destruction of habitats, and to inspire people to value nature. They have taken a progressive approach to conservation within our property and surrounding areas, letting natural processes to enhance and reshape our land and restore degraded old agricultural landscapes.