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Donut decorating party held to note Childhood Center Cancer Awareness Month

By Staff | Sep 19, 2011

Barbara’s Friends – The Children’s Hospital Cancer Fund held a special donut decorating party Monday afternoon at Lexington Country Club to celebrate the life of pediatric patients with cancer in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Frank Haskell and his wife, Betty, began Barbara’s Friends – The Children’s Hospital Cancer Fund almost 17 years ago after their daughter lost her fight against cancer when she was 36 years old.

“Her mother and I wanted to do something with cancer,” Frank said about carrying on Barbara’s memory by helping the children.

Barbara had breast cancer and two bone marrow transplants.

He said they thought if they could raise $100,000 for Barbara’s Friends – Children’s Hospital Cancer Fund they would be very fortunate. Sixteen years later they have raised $10.5 million and have helped more than 3,500 children.

“We are amazed,” he said, adding that they are very proud of what they have accomplished.

The endowment fund supports the pediatric oncology and hematology programs and services that is not reimbursed by health insurance.

The nice thing about Barbara’s Friends, Frank said, is 100 percent of the money raised goes towards the kids and their medical needs and stays in Southwest Florida.

The largest donation Barbara’s Friends has received is $1 million from the Yawkey Foundation. Frank said that donation enabled them to offer counseling services for the children and their families if they can afford it or not.

Recently the children chose a mascot and name for Barbara’s Friends, which is a turtle named Templeton. The turtle, he said, has a zipper on the front of him because the doctors and nurses are always trying to get the children out of their shell.

Lee Memorial Health System Foundation Director of Development Duane Higgins said this year it was decided to move the 10th annual Helping Kids with Cancer 12-hour live radiothon that is broadcasted from Miromar Outlets on Cat Country from October to January. He said this year they hope to raise $300,000 on Jan. 20 for Barbara’s Friends.

In the last nine years, the radiothon has raised $1 million.

Monday afternoon $100,000 was donated to the cause from various businesses that have held fund-raisers for Barbara’s Friends. Higgins said the radiothon helps raise awareness about childhood cancer while raising money for Barbara’s Friends.

In celebration of its newest corporate sponsor, Dunkin Donuts, the 2011 Child of Hope, Caliah Russell, 4, spent Monday afternoon spreading frosting and sprinkles on an assortment of donuts, while sneaking some of the sweetness for a taste between the decorating.

Since her favorite color is orange, many of her donuts were covered with that colored sprinkles.

Caliah was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia on Aug. 27 of last year and is in remission. She is currently in her final phase of treatment, which she began in April. The final phase is 19 months long.

Her mother, Mindy, said she has blood work done every two weeks and a lumbar puncture every 12 weeks. Caliah is under anesthesia when having the lumbar puncture done, which is a 30-minute process of removing her spinal fluid to check for cancer cells, which is then replaced with an intrathecal chemotherapy. During that half hour she also has an IV chemo.

“The hospital makes it easy,” Mindy said about her treatments.

Last month the Russells spent 12 nights in the hospital. Mindy said the rooms are really accommodating for the entire family and because of Barbara’s Friend’s she received three meals a day.

“It makes it so much easier on the family,” the mother said, adding that her daughter does not feel like she is going to the hospital.

Higgins said childhood cancer is much different than adult cancer because physicians still do not know what causes cancer in children and cannot prevent it from happening. He said a child with leukemia can have treatment once a week for up to three years.

Although the children visit the hospital on a frequent basis, Higgins said the child stays with the same nurse throughout their treatment.

The Children’s Hospital is one of nine regional pediatric cancer programs in the state of Florida and is a member of the Children’s Oncology Group, which was founded by the National Cancer Institute. Due to the membership, children who visit the Children’s Hospital receive the same protocols and treatment that is provided at St. Jude’s Hospital.

Medical Director of the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Center Dr. Emad Salman and his staff have treated more than 5,000 children with cancer, leukemia and sickle-cell anemia since the children’s cancer program’s inception in 1997.