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More than a dozen leaders representing Lee Health support children with cancer


Throughout September, child advocates and supporters of Barbara’s Friends are “braving the shave,” allowing local childhood cancer survivors to shave their heads to raise awareness and support for Barbara’s Friends – the cancer fund for Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

In addition to raising money for the 25th year of Barbara’s Friends, Clips for Cancer raises awareness about the challenges of childhood cancer, including going bald, a frequent side-effect of cancer treatments. Proceeds will provide equipment, staffing and services to support lifesaving cancer care for children in our region at Golisano Children’s Hospital.

On Sept. 18, Dr. Larry Antonucci, president and CEO of Lee Health, had his head shaved by Caliah Russell, who 10 years ago at age 3 was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Caliah recently turned 13 and dreams of one day being a Disney Imagineer.

“I am shaving my head because I want to show our children, the ones who are fighting for their lives, that they are not alone, we are here with them and we want to do this for them,” said Antonucci. “We’re here to take care of the community regardless of ability to pay. I am proud to join other leaders as well as the generous donors to Barbara’s Friends to encourage our young heroes.”

To show their support of Antonucci, The John E. & Aliese Price Foundation issued a $25,000 challenge grant to the community, pledging to match donations raised by Antonucci up to $25,000. Right before Antonucci’s shave, Nancy and Randy Howell called to donate $20,000 towards the challenge. Nancy Howell is the sister of Barbara Haskell, the namesake of Barbara’s Friends and daughter of Frank Haskell, founder of the pediatric cancer fund. “We know how important these funds are and applauded the community support and challenges,” commented Nancy Howell.

“Cancer is a devastating disease for anyone, especially for children, and we are happy to see that Dr. Antonucci and others at Lee Health are willing to shave their heads to help raise matching funds for this important cause,” said Dr. Ken Walker, John E. & Aliese Price Foundation president and CEO. “The grant will be paid in full this year to encourage others to join in the fun and watch these administrators and friends raise gifts by going bald.”

In addition, Dr. Thomas Presbrey and Florida Radiology Consultants donated $40,000 to Clips for Cancer to encourage Lee Health leaders to have their heads shaved. Presbrey, president of Florida Radiology Consultants, joined them by having his head shaved on Sept. 18 by Ashton Hoiles. Hoiles was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) at just 3 years old. Today, he is an active 11-year-old boy who loves dirt bike racing and giving back to the hospital that helped save his life.

To raise awareness and drive philanthropic support, Shavees (the participants who agree to be shaved) are inviting the Southwest Florida community to watch them in these moments of empowerment live every Friday in September on Lee Health Foundation’s Facebook and show their support by donating to Barbara’s Friends – Golisano Children’s Hospital Cancer Fund at BarbarasFriends.org/ClipsForCancer. Each Shavee has a personal goal of raising $2,500 or more to support kids with cancer and the pediatric hematology and oncology program.

Lee Health representatives who had their heads shaved on Sept. 18 in addition to Antonucci: Dr. Scott Nygaard, chief operating officer, Dave Cato, chief officer of outpatient and hospital operations and post-acute care; Ken Mack, Barbara’s Friends Advisory Board Member; Kevin Anderson, Fort Myers City Council and Barbara’s Friends Advisory Board Member. On Sept. 25 Lee Health shavees are Rachel Toa, Golisano Children’s Hospital oncology nurse; Al Kinkle, Barbara’s Friends Advisory Board chairman; and Bill Malstrom, Mel’s Diner and Barbara’s Friends Advisory Board Member.

Already shaved on Sept. 4: Dr. Emad Salman, regional medical officer of Golisano Children’s Hospital; Dr. Jordon Taillon, pulmonologist and critical care specialist; Dr. Shyam Kapadia, pulmonologist; Dr.Vijay Das, pulmonologist, sleep mind critical care specialist; and Dr. Parmeet Saini, pulmonologist and critical care specialist.

The duo who started the Clips for Cancer event, Armando Llechu, chief officer, hospital operations and women and children’s services; and brain cancer survivor Mackenzie Hummer will be joined by Dr. Venkat Prasad, chief medical officer of Lee Physician Group, to wrap up the month-long fundraiser on Sept. 30.

To learn more and donate, visit BarbarasFriends.org/ClipsForCancer.

About Barbara’s Friends

Established in 1995, Barbara’s Friends provides equipment, staffing and services to support lifesaving cancer care for children from across southwest Florida at Golisano Children’s Hospital. The Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Program is the only program of its kind in Southwest Florida and has served over 10,000 patients since opening. No child is denied treatment or turned away as a result of their family’s inability to pay for care. For more information about the Barbara’s Friends fund and supporting child patients in your community, please call Lee Health Foundation at (239) 343-6950 or visit BarbarasFriends.org.

About Golisano Children’s Hospital

Established in 1994, Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida has been named a “Top Hospital” by The Leapfrog Group for the past three years. It is the only recognized children’s hospital between Tampa and Miami. Lee Health opened the new 134-bed Golisano Children’s Hospital in May 2017, relocating the children’s hospital from the adjacent HealthPark Medical Center. It includes comprehensive pediatric services including a 24-hour pediatric emergency department, hematology-oncology unit, milk lab, Regional Perinatal Intensive Care Center, and Level II and Level III NICU with 70 private rooms. Golisano Children’s Hospital is proud to have been named Soliant’s 2019 Most Beautiful Hospital in the U.S., a recognition determined by popular vote. For more information, visit GolisanoChildrensSWFL.org.

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