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Rotary Happenings: Sanibel generosity has made a huge difference

By Staff | May 10, 2017

One hundred million dollars, now that’s a pretty big financial figure. Yet, that is the amount raised through philanthropic giving from our local community members and one specific community member businessman, B. Thomas Golisano, in 2012 with a match pledge of $20 million in private donations for the construction of the new Golisano Children’s Hospital at HealthPark. Ten million of those matched funds were raised by the fundraising efforts of Barbara’s Fiends already involved in the Children’s Hospital Fund for Lee Health, specifically dedicated to the health and well-being of children specifically those diagnosed with cancer.

On Friday morning, April 28, our Rotary Club had as our guest speaker, Al Kinkle, manager of Lexington Country Club, close friend of the Founder of Barbara’s Friend Frank Haskell, and presently Chairman of Barbara’s Friends.

Haskell and Kinkle have much in common including grieving the death of a loving daughter from cancer at the age of 35. Each wanted to honor their daughters lives – Barbara Haskell and Kimmy Kinkle – in a way that would focus on their love of children. Haskell founded Barbara’s Friends 25 years ago and in that time, has seen the need in pediatric medical care grow along with the growth of our community.

Currently Barbara’s Friends help finance: total pediatric hematology/oncology patient care, emotional and psychosocial care for child and family, child life care, medical equipment and supplies, family financial aid, and hospital family meals while child is hospital bound.

While working with Haskell serving as a board member of Barbara’s Friends, Kinkle saw the need to support parents and families of young cancer patients and with Haskell’s help he himself established Kimmie’s Angel’s Family Assistance Fund. This fund will support, sustain, and enhance Barbara’s Friends in providing families with financial assistance while in treatment as Golisano Children’s Hospital.

Here are some facts regarding children suffering from cancer:

  • Each year, more kids die of cancer than any other disease;
  • Average age of children diagnosed with cancer is 6;
  • Three out of five who survive children’s cancer may suffer long term effects.

Some recent statistics supplied to us by Kinkle in 2014, the children’s cancer center at Health Park had 4,000 treatment visits, 300 children with cancer and over 1,100 with hematology blood disorders. Published predictive information from 2015 indicated that 10,380 children (15 and under in the U.S.) would be diagnosed with cancer in 2015. Past annual figures at the Children’s Hospital at HealthPark- 5,000 inpatients and 41,000 pediatric outpatient cases of which 1,200 inpatient and 4,000 outpatient surgeries are performed each year.

The need for a dedicated children’s hospital was evident and our community members met the challenge presented by Lee Health to build oneGolisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest FL.

On April 1, 2017, Lee Health/Golisano opened its doors. National figures from the National Cancer Institute, “In 2014, it was estimated that 15,780 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 years would be diagnosed with cancer and 1,960 would die of the disease in the United States. The most common types of cancer diagnosed in children and adolescents are leukemia, brain and other central nervous system tumors, lymphoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, neuroblastoma, Wilms tumor, bone cancer and gonadal (testicular and ovarian) germ cell tumors.” Kinkle told us, “today 90 percent of children suffering from cancer survive.”

The Barbara’s Friends Cancer Unit is housed on the entire fifth floor of the new children’s hospital. That many patients, as throughout the hospital, have their own rooms with space to have parents or guardians stay with them at the hospital. Treatment is performed by the professional staff but the 1,200 Barbara’s Friends volunteers concentrate on the well-being of these young cancer patients and their families. To do this Barbara’s Friends and the Kimmie’s Angel Fund are constantly fundraising to support their activities at the hospital and beyond; providing comfort and granting special wishes are part of their mission. Comfort care, also, includes physiological help and grieving groups.

Golisano serves children and families from Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. Kinkle told us, “70 to 90 percent of the pediatric cancer patients at Golisano Children’s Hospital don’t pay a dime. Financial means is not the measure of medical care given at this medical facility.”

Sanibel-Captiva Rotary meets on Friday morning at 7 a.m. at the Dunes Golf and Tennis Club. Guests are always welcomed.