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Wave of Hope strives to raise money for ill children

By Staff | Mar 19, 2009

Sadly some children not only get cancer but they never get a chance to figure out what they want to do when they grow up – because they don’t.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death after accidents in children ages 1 to 14, according to the American Cancer Society.

With these sobering facts in mind, one local organization is striving to make a difference in the lives of children stricken with this horrible disease.

The Sanibel-Captiva Optimist Club is holding its second annual Wave of Hope 2k-10k charity walk on Bowman’s Beach on Saturday, March 21 from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. The event will feature live music with local favorite Danny Morgan and Pittsburg Mike.

Free parking is available for participants. Pre-registration is $25 per person. On walk day, registration is $30.

“It’s going to be a wonderful day,” said San-Cap Optimist Club president

Stan Howard.

All proceeds from this event will benefit Barbara’s Friends, The Children’s

Hospital Cancer Fund at Lee Memorial Hospital, said event coordinator Amy Wainwright. The Children’s Hospital is located within the Health Park Medical Center in Fort Myers.

Participants can further help by raising money for kids’ cancer care. Each

kilometer walked (up to 10K) raises more money. Prizes will be awarded to participants who raise the most money, Wainwright said.

The first 150 registrants will receive a free Wave of Hope T-shirt. Children under 10 and adults with leashed dogs walk for free.

Last year more than 100 people participated in the walk and raised $10,000.

“There is no other event like this on the island,” Wainwright said. “It combines a wonderful walk on the beach on Sanibel and a way to help children.”

This year the San-Cap Optimist Club – an organization dedicated to bettering the lives of children – is hoping to do even better despite a rough economy.

“It’s very important we come out to help these children,” Howard said.

Barbara’s Friends will use the money to help fund support programs for children with cancer.

Frank and Betty Haskell founded Barbara’s Friends after their 36-year-old daughter Barbara died after a four-year battle with breast cancer.

During Barbara’s treatments, Frank Haskell said she was so touched by the courage and positive attitudes of the child cancer-patients undergoing treatment that she wanted to help them in some way.

She never got the chance.

But her parents, heartbroken with losing their beloved daughter, decided to create a foundation to help children with cancer and honor Barbara.

“We lost one child, but we feel we are helping at least 2,000 families and children,” Frank Haskell said. “We feel our daughter would be proud.”

For the past 14 years Barbara’s Friends has helped children with cancer by paying for medical care, counseling and diversions such as a well-equipped music room.

Barbara’s Friends HematologyOncology Center and Counseling Center is vital to many children fighting cancer.

“We have tried to make the facilities very kid friendly but state-of-the-art,” Frank Haskell said.

Stacie Margaritis, a child life specialist who works at Barbara’s Friend’s children’s center said giving children something to do while at the hospital is vital.

Programs like the music room supported by Barbara’s Friend often acts like a life line to children forced to miss school and be separated from their friends during treatments.

“It helps us make their lives as normal as possible,” Margaritas said.

Of the $8.4 million raised by Barbara’s Friends over more than a decade, all of the money has stayed in Southwest Florida to help sick children.

Wainwright said having the chance to help with the walk and the children makes all of the work putting it together worthwhile.

“For me, this is about giving a little bit back,” she said. “Pay it forward.”