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Still time to get tickets for ‘Luau of Life’ children’s hospital fundraiser

By Staff | Apr 9, 2015

A traditional pig roast, an Elvis Presley impersonator and fire dancers will be among some of the festivities for the first gala Luau of Life this weekend to raise money for pediatric cancer.

The inaugural event will be held this Saturday, April 11, at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, 2301 1st St., Fort Myers. Tickets, which are $150 per person, $250 per couple and $1,200 for a table of eight, are still available and will be until 3 p.m. Friday. To reserve a ticket, call (239) 343-6950 or visit www.luauoflife.com.

The funds collected during the event will benefit Barbara’s Friends – Golisano Children’s Hospital Cancer Fun and Children’s Oncology Group.

Destiny Haggett, who is chairing the event with her husband Bill, said the event is going to be upscale, but casual, with Hawaiian or island wear.

From 6 to 7 p.m. guests will enjoy being entertained by Polynesian dancers, while receiving a complimentary lei and cocktails under the stars in front of the center. Attendees also will have the opportunity to browse silent auction items.

At 7 p.m. attendees will be welcomed by Dr. Emad Salman before a gourmet Polynesian buffet, including roast pig provided by Michael Gavala of G3 Catering, is served.

At 8 p.m. Haggett will speak about the importance of pediatric research for cancer before the live auction takes place. Her son, Chansen Savakinus, will also speak.

An Elvis Presley tribute artist Peter Alden will be featuring Blue Hawaii from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Haggett said her son Chansen is a two-time leukemia survivor.

Chansen was originally diagnosed in May 2007 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when he was 6 years old. Haggett said although A.L.L is one of the most common and curable forms of leukemia, he relapsed in February 2012 at the age of 11.

The treatment the second time around was very harsh for Chansen.

“He suffered blood clots and six fractures to his spine and a stroke from treatment,” she said. “His outcome is the best you can hope for. We want to see the day where (this) outcome is the worst case scenario.”

Chansen is now doing wonderful and is nearing almost a year of being off treatment, which is why the family wanted to hold the event as a way to give back.

“He is phenomenal and you would never know what he has gone through,” Haggett said.

She said throughout the years her son has been treated at Golisano where he met a great friend, Chase Johnson, who died last year.

“The event I am holding is for cancer research,” Chansen said. “I am doing it for my friend who I had lost last year to cancer.

“I am very excited. We have been planning it for a year now . . . very excited to see it come to life.”

Haggett said Chansen was devastated and said it was not fair, that kids should always be able to survive their disease.

“We decided we would do a luau in honor of Chase,” Haggett said.

Chansen began a fundraiser at his school, Oasis Elementary School, in November. He said each classroom had a piggy bank for students to drop off loose change. T-shirts were also created and sold with names of children with cancer. All of those piggy banks and T-shirt sales raised $3,000, which will be combined with the proceeds of the Luau of Life event.

Haggett said they began planning this event because her family wants to raise awareness that there is no funding out there for pediatric cancer research.

“I don’t think they realize how little the kids get,” she said as far as funding goes. “We wanted to raise money to help the cause.”

Haggett said when you have a child going through cancer treatment, it is very expensive for the family.

“We don’t have the money because we are financially, completely lost, and we are the ones that have to do the advocating on behalf of the kids because there is no money to do research,” she said. “We are doing fundraisers and advocacy to try to make other people care and understand, so families can stop having to go through this and we stop losing children.”