Fairbanks Ranch resident Michelle Mirandon’s dedication to charitable giving ensues from two life-changing experiences.
In 2006, physicians diagnosed Mirandon, then in her 30s, as having an inoperable brain tumor.
Miraculously, Mirandon survived.
“Nobody quite knows how,” she said in a recent interview at Fairbanks Ranch Country Club. “I have it, but I thank God everyday it’s not adversely impacting the quality of my life. ... I’ve heard other cancer patients and people in other terminal experiences say that it’s only when you face death that you learn how to truly live and I believe that 100 percent. It clarifies your priorities in a white hot second.”
Mirandon said she believes changing to a healthier diet, lifestyle and spiritual outlook helped her overcome the early symptoms and survive. Her predicament as well as a friend’s struggle with cancer motivated her to form her own nonprofit charity, the Mirandon Foundation for Hope.
“It’s been said the greatest blessing that comes of suffering is compassion,” she said. “So following my own journey as well as what I saw my friend go through, I wanted to do something for the greater good.
“When it officially got off the ground, it was primarily with the goal of assisting women, children and families in need. The true mission is in the title — Foundation for Hope.”
Then in 2013, Mirandon endured the ordeal of bearing twins prematurely and worrying about whether they would live while they were being stabilized in the neonatal intensive care unit at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women and Newborns. Both her son, Charlie, and daughter, Monet, were kept in the unit for two weeks, she said.
“Those two weeks remain two of the most traumatic weeks of my life,” Mirandon said. “Our children were born before their lungs were developed, so they needed immediate intervention. I wasn’t able to hold them when they were born. They were taken from me immediately. I wasn’t able to hold my daughter for two days. I couldn’t hold my son (until) after the first 24 hours.
“And the worst thing about it is, as a NICU parent, you leave the hospital without your child, and I have no words for how horrible, hollow and agonizing that is. ... Fortunately, our children did extremely well in the NICU.”
They thrived in part, Mirandon believes, because she and her husband, Brian Mirandon, were able to devote so much time at the hospital with their newborns. Being self-employed and having no children to care for at home enabled them to stay for extended periods.
That’s a luxury many families don’t have, Mirandon said, a contributing factor to the couple’s putting much of the foundation’s resources toward Miracle Babies.
The San Diego-based nonprofit was founded to provide support for families with babies in the NICU, including financial assistance for low-income families.
“They (Miracle Babies) do everything in their power to make it possible for the mother to be exactly where she needs to be, which is with her sick infant in the NICU,” Mirandon said.
As it has done for the last few years, Foundation for Hope sponsored a table for NICU parents at Miracle Babies’ annual fundraising gala, which was held Oct. 20 at Rancho Valencia Resort in Rancho Santa Fe.
Last year, the foundation hosted a Father’s Day dinner for dads of NICU children. Mirandon also supports special hours that Miracle Babies holds at NICU hospitals in which moms with babies in the ward are treated to food, crafts and conversation.
Among many other activities, the foundation is involved in assisting a Soroptimist International program supporting women who have been victims of domestic abuse.The Mirandon foundation has bought tickets sponsoring participation of the women in the program in an upcoming high tea being held in their honor. Last year, the foundation bought dresses for women so they could attend the Soroptimist tea event.
Mirandon said much of her strength to overcome obstacles and achieve stem from her mother. The daughter of an impoverished family living in rural Cuba, she was sent by her mother to the U.S. in an arranged marriage with the hope she would get treatment for anemia that wasn’t available in Cuba.
Her mother’s name was Caridad, the Spanish word for charity and the name of the island’s patron saint.
“She was the embodiment of charity,” Mirandon said. “My mother was the type of person who gave incredibly. ... She was one of those people who would give you the shirt off her back. She was also feisty, but for those that she loved and for those who could not help themselves, she was a pillar.”
Her mother eventually settled in North County, and Mirandon spent her early years in the San Diego area. As a teenager, Mirandon moved with her family to Los Angeles, where she lived for 15 years. She earned a master’s degree at UCLA in European history, with a focus on the Medieval and Renaissance ages, and then went into real estate.
She and her husband were living in Los Angeles when they learned they were expecting. That prompted their decision to return to her former home county, eventually settling in Fairbanks Ranch in 2015.
“When my husband and I found out we were going to be parents, we decided we wanted to raise our children in San Diego,” she said.
“We moved a few times to get it right,” said Mirandon, adding the family chose to live in a gated community because of the added safety.
“That’s the reason I live behind gates with my kids,” she said of Charlie and Monet, who are now 5. “I know I can let my kids play in the backyard and not worry about them.”