SWFL cancer patients surprise serenade man whose fund helped save their life

When Frank Haskell stepped out of the elevator and onto the fifth floor of the Golisano Children’s Hospital Wednesday afternoon, he was surprised to see this crowd of people smiling and singing him a happy 90th birthday.

They were all there to celebrate a man who has dedicated his life to helping thousands.

Frank started the ‘Barbara’s Friends’ organization to honor his dying daughter’s wish and help kids with cancer in the Southwest Florida community.

As Barbara Haskell fought breast cancer for four years, she marveled at the bravery of children around her undergoing treatment.

After Barbara lost her battle at the age of 36, her parents, Frank and Betty Haskell, established the ‘Barbara’s Friends Golisano Children’s Hospital Cancer Fund ‘in 1995. The rainbow logo was chosen due to Barbara’s love of the ‘Wizard of Oz’ film and song ‘Over the Rainbow.”

Frank said they saw a lot of kids that had cancer and his daughter did too, “she said to us wouldn’t it be nice someday if you come up with some sort of a program to assist children with cancer? So this is what we’ve done .”

Fifty years ago, the survival rate for pediatric cancer patients was just 10%. Today, it’s 80%. And at Golisano Children’s Hospital, that number is even higher.

Frank and Betty started raising cancer funds the day after she was buried.

Now, the program supports about 500 outpatient encounters and 25 patient encounters per month. In addition to seeing children with pediatric cancers and blood diseases, ‘Barbara’s Friends’ supports children with immune deficiencies and other conditions.

“I think some people bury people but they don’t celebrate their life and I think that’s the thing we’ve been able to do with Barbera We’ve been able to celebrate her life and even though she’s gone she’s not gone We think of her constantly and I think that’s a wonderful thing

So far it has served more than 3,500 patients so no child is denied treatment or turned away as a result of their family’s inability to pay for care and Barbara’s Friends has raised more than 20 million dollars, some of which made building the Golisano Children’s Hospital possible.

Emad Salman, Golisano Children’s Hospital Regional Medical Officer says without Barbara’s Friends he honestly believes there would not a pediatric oncology program.

“The fact that Frank and Betty Haskell converted their tragedy to something so amazing that has helped many many many families over the last 20 years is a wonderful thing to see” Salman added.

100 percent of the money goes to the kids and their treatment and Frank says they’re  very proud of it, and has high hopes.

“Our goal now is to raise an additional $10 million even though I’m gonna be 90 years of age,” Frank said. “And I’m gonna work on Barbara’s Friends til I take my last breath.”

For more information visit: barbarasfriends.org

Here’s what the foundation says a donation of $25 per month can go toward:

  • $25 – Gas cards to get to and from treatment and doc appointments for 2 weeks
  • $50 – Transpiration for a child to camp
  • $75 – End of Chemo Party
  • $100 – 1 month of home chemotherapy for patient with leukemia
  • $500 – Sponsor a family under the Kimmie’s Angels Family Assistance Program
  • $1,000 – Sends a child to week-long camp
  • $15,000 – $30,000 – Annual cost of a new medication for Sickle Cell pain crisis prevention not covered by Medicaid.
Reporter:Melinda Lee
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