PANDA (People Acting Now Discover Answers)

Founded in 1999, the Phoenix Women's Board of the Steele Children's Research Center, affectionately known as PANDA (People Acting Now Discover Answers), supports discovery processes to improve treatments and cures for devastating childhood diseases.

PANDA’s year-round fundraising efforts include Pandas for Patients, Lemonade Stand Day, PANDA Prowl Fun Run & Block Party and the marquee event, the “Children Helping Children” Fashion Show & Luncheon in Phoenix presented by Fox Restaurant Concepts with more than 1,200 attendees each year. Since 1999, PANDA has raised more than $26 million for the Steele Children’s Research Center and fueled more than $100 million in grant funding.   To learn more about the PANDAs, visit:

PANDA Project Highlights:

2023: PANDA  First 1,000 Days Pediatric Project

PANDA funding supports two areas: translational research into pediatric nutrition, and research to advance technology in congenital heart disease which impacts nearly one in 100 babies. By funding translational research, we move basic science discoveries quickly and efficiently into practice.

2022: PANDA  NovaSeq Genome Sequencing Project

Amount raised:$4,100,000

NovaSeq Genome Sequencing can be completed on 48 children in as little as 40 hours. By sequencing these cells, physician-scientists will be able to discover underlying microbiome composition that can lead to answers for a number of fundamental biological and clinical questions. Additionally, physician-scientists will be able to study genes at a single cell level which allows analysis of gene expression, or changes in DNA structure which is key to early diagnosis and treatment of a multitude of pediatric diseases, including cancer, diabetes, epilepsy and many other chronic diseases.

2020/2021: Vision of Research Project 

Amount raised:$6,600,000

PANDA funded the “PANDA Vision of Research Project” for vital medical research into autoimmunity, developmental/behavioral pediatrics, and genomic medicine to produce new ideas, novel treatments, and hope for our children. PANDA also created the Fayez K. Ghishan, MD PANDA Endowed Directorship.

2019: PANDA Children's Cancer Inflammation Project

Amount raised: $2,956,000

PANDA supports the Children’s Cancer Inflammation Project which will investigate the gut health of children undergoing bone marrow transplants with the goal of adjusting their diets to improve their responses to treatment and prolong life. The study will be done in conjunction with whole genome sequencing, searching for answers and treatments for cancer-causing mutations. The hope is to reveal information about the role of diet and dietary factors in the transgenerational occurrence of cancer in children.

2018: PANDA Children's Epilepsy Project

Amount raised: $3,188,000

PANDA passionately supports research better understand the complicated etiology of infantile epilepsy. The project this year looks to support research, in collaboration with Rady Children's Genomic Institute, that seeks to explore both the basic science and clinical aspects of epilepsy. This includes incorporating genetics, metabolic and structural brain issues into the protocol. Emphasis will be placed on children who are diagnosed with the condition during infancy and early ages. Rady will provide the whole genome sequencing that the Steele Center will investigate the mutations and determine their functionality. This will yield a better, more personal treatment for children and create a new paradigm by which physicians and scientists treat patients.

2017: PANDA Children’s Autoimmunity and Allergies Project

Amount raised: $2,075,000

PANDA supports the recruitment and retention of researchers who work to unravel the mystery of common autoimmune issues among children – type 1 diabetes, juvenile arthritis, Crohn’s disease, colitis, eosinophilic esophagitis, celiac disease, and postinfectious autoimmune encephalopathy.

2016: PANDA Personalized Pediatric Medicine Project

Amount raised: $1,354,000

PANDA supports pilot studies and establishing an integrated system for personalized medical approaches to treat children suffering from complex diseases, including cancer. This individualized system enables physicians to accurately predict a child’s response, resistance, or adverse reaction to particular treatment options.

2015: PANDA Anti-Tumor Immunity Program

Amount raised: $1,108,000

This project created an interface between traditional cancer chemotherapies and immune-based strategies, focusing on pediatric cancer patients. PANDA supported research to identify a new generation of anti-cancer drugs with the ability to contain the cancer, develop natural immunity to the cells, and reduce the emergence of tumor cell clones.

2013 & 2014: PANDA Children's Autoimmune Disorders Project

Amount raised: $1,491,000

For two years, PANDA funded the Children's Autoimmune Disorders Project to help researchers find answers that are desperately needed for families facing the challenges of autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, juvenile arthritis, Crohn's/colitis, severe food allergies, eosinophilic esophagitis, and celiac disease.

2012: Phoenix Translational Research Center

Amount raised: $545,000

PANDA helped fund the Steele Children’s Research Center – Phoenix Translational Center. Developing a physical presence in Maricopa County allowed the Steele Center "translate" findings in fundamental research into medical practice and meaningful health outcomes in the Phoenix area. Currently, Steele Center researchers are conducting clinical translational research in the areas of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) and type 1 diabetes at the Phoenix Translational Research Center.

2011: PANDA Healthy Babies Program

Amount raised: $577,000

PANDA is working to increase the likelihood that babies can leave the NICU healthy and in the shortest amount of time. Of the myriad of health issues that premature babies face, necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is the most common gastrointestinal disease that affects them. The Steele Children’s Research Center is the only facility in the state of Arizona that combines the highest-level clinical services for preterm infants along with cutting edge basic science research.

2010: PANDA Children's Cancer Immunology Program

Amount raised: $805,000

Project 2010 funded the PANDA Children’s Cancer Immunology Program that is on the cutting-edge of offering a promising option to fight cancer. Children fighting cancer face tremendous odds. Despite advances in survival rates, chemotherapy and radiation are toxic, causing short-term suffering and long-term complications.The PANDA Children’s Cancer Immunology Program funded research for a new option of treatment—immunotherapy. Immunotherapy re-programs a child’s own disease-fighting cells to recognize his or her own individual cancer cells and prevent them from multiplying. Scientists believe that a child’s own immune system may become an effective way to treat cancer or to prevent relapses. Dr. Emmanuel Katsanis at the Steele Children’s Research Center heads a team of physician-scientists conducting research in pediatric immunotherapy. Dr. Katsanis and the Steele Center are one of the few research centers in the country conducting pediatric cancer immunology research and developing novel immunotherapy treatments against cancer.

2009: PANDA Children's Neurological Center

Amount raised: $762,000

The 2009 "Children Helping Children" Fashion Show and Golf Tournament proceeds established the "PANDA Children's Neurological Center," a new comprehensive care facility to help children and families receive state-of-the-art specialized care in a single location. The facility is focused on improving the lives of thousands of families in Arizona whose children suffer from neurological disorders -encompassing traumatic brain injury, stroke, autism, near-drownings, meningitis, brain tumors, cerebral palsy and other causes.

2008: Women in Science

Amount raised: $554,000

The 2008 “Children Helping Children” Fashion Show proceeds funded the “Women in Science” program being developed at the Steele Children’s Research Center. While more and more women enter the medical field every year, currently only 25% of physicians are women and even fewer practice medical research. The Steele Center’s “Women in Science” program supports promising female physician-scientists as they build their clinical and research careers.

2007: The PANDA Children's Aerodigestive Disorders Center

Amount raised: $681,000

The PANDA Children’s Aerodigestive Disorders Center is both a clinical and research facility. It is the only one of its kind in the entire state of Arizona. The center serves children who are suffering from eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorders – disorders of the digestive tract caused by allergies to food and airborne allergens. These disorders are known as “EE” for eosinophilic esophagitis, and “EG” for eosinophilic gastroenteritis (a more debilitating form of EE). Children with EE or EG often fail to grow, suffer from nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, choking, cramping, and diarrhea. Arizona has far more cases of EE/ EG than the national average, yet there was no place in the western U.S. where children can receive dedicated care for this painful disease. In response, the PANDA Center now serves Arizona and the Southwest, employing a team approach to treat children with aerodigestive disorders.

2006: Pediatric Immunology and Cardiothoracic Surgery 

Amount raised: $457,000

Donated funds supported a research program for pediatric immunology and cardiothoracic surgery.

2005: Pediatric Cancer Research/White Coat Fund

Amount raised: $365,000

Pediatric cancer research support; establishment of a White Coat Fund to recruit promising young research scholars.

2004: IBD Research

Amount raised: $214,000

IBD collaboration with TGen, Phoenix Children’s Hospital and the Steele Center to study Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

2003: Physician Recruitment; Lab Start-up

Amount raised: $186,000

PANDA Scholar Shannon Jenkins, MD, recruited; research lab start-up funds for Johnathan Wispé, MD, for lung development.

2002: Physician Recruitment

Amount raised: $138,000

PANDA Scholar Todd Camenisch, PhD was recruited to study pediatric heart development.

2001: Research Equipment

Amount raised: $145,000

Purchased a Virtek Chip Writer, which utilizes microarray technology that speeds the search for genes responsible for specific diseases.

2000: Research Equipment

Amount raised: $109,000

Purchased an AutoGen Robot used to prepare and purify DNA used to define genetic origins of devastating childhood diseases.

To read more about PANDA’s history of supporting the Steele Children’s Research Center, visit