Inspired by Penn, De La Torre fund-raises, competes

It is for Penn Hazuda — and other children suffering from childhood cancer — who Farragut resident Nathalie De La Torre is raising money for the 2022 Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Knoxville Woman of the Year designation.

Penn, 4, who lives in Maryville with his parents, Eric and Jessica Hazuda, and big brother, Pryce, is this year’s LLS Boy of the Year, helping out with fundraisers, and “serving as a face” of childhood cancer, Jessica said.

“Most people have no experience with childhood cancer, which is great, but there is nothing to prepare you if it happens to you,” she added, noting Penn has been battling leukemia since early in 2021.

“For example, only 4 percent of government funding goes to children’s cancer research. Additionally, there have not been any new chemotherapy drugs approved for children since the 1970s.”

For Penn, the medicines fighting the disease have caused numerous side effects, and as recently as last week, he spent several days in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital.

“When they asked us if Penn could be Boy of the Year, I said, ‘Sign me up,’” Jessica said. “Whatever Penn can do, and whatever we can do to get the story out there so people understand, we are willing to do it.”

“LLS brought us in, to tell our story,” Eric said. “We honestly don’t ask ‘Why us?’ because, really, it’s more, ‘Why not us?’ I feel God has chosen us for this very reason — to bring awareness and use our story to help others, so those coming behind us may have it easier.”

De La Torre is competing with five area women to be designated Woman of the Year, as all are fundraising for LLS. In addition to Penn serving as Boy of the Year, Willow Dalton, 5, who also is battling leukemia, is LLS’s Girl of the Year.

“I have joined a team that is driven to find cures for blood cancer,” De La Torre said of her role. “Our team is working to raise as much as possible over (a 10-week time frame) that concludes May 16.

“Over the years, (fundraising support) has been responsible for the blood cancer advancements that have doubled, tripled, and in some cases, quadrupled the survival rate for some blood cancers,” she added.

One of her fundraisers, Cocktails for a Cause, was held at Farragut’s Water into Wine bistro & lounge Thursday, April 21. Guests enjoyed a specialty cocktail, with all proceeds from that drink going to LLS, while Water into Wine donated 5 percent of all food and wine sales that night toward LLS.

Although Penn was ill that evening, Eric was able to attend De La Torre’s event.

“It is amazing to have someone like Nathalie step up and take time out to be part of this campaign,” Eric said. “She and her team are responsible for creating events, and it is really hard work.

“Then Penn is there to offer the inspiration and the face of what he and other children are going through,” he added.

While De La Torre continues to raise funds, top fundraisers will be announced May 16.

To support her efforts, visit

For more information about LLS, visit