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SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc. to dedicate funds from 2018 Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest to support pediatric oncology

The diagnosis of childhood cancer is devastating for families. However, the journey of care can lead to hope when the family is able to turn to Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida for world-class pediatric oncology treatment. In support of this lifesaving program that enables local families to stay close to home, SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc. is pleased to announce that the 2018 Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest’s Fund-A-Cause initiative is dedicated to supporting the pediatric oncology program at Golisano Children’s Hospital.

With 43 children across the nation diagnosed with cancer every day, the need for pediatric oncology resources within the region is imperative. During the Live Auction of the 2018 Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest, auction-goers can raise their paddles in support of this year’s Fund-A-Cause, helping make unbearable circumstances much easier for young patients undergoing months, or even years, of treatment for cancer at Golisano Children’s Hospital.

“Offering lifesaving treatment right here in Southwest Florida, the pediatric oncology team at Golisano Children’s Hospital enables families to stay together, keeping loved ones close without having to travel out of the region or state for superior services,” said Elaine Hawkins, trustee and president of the board of directors, SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc. “Providing for our children and families in need is key to our mission at SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc., and we are honored to dedicate our Fund-A-Cause dollars to the pediatric oncology program at Golisano Children’s Hospital.”

The benefits of having these services available nearby is deeply appreciated and important to families of pediatric cancer patients, including the Bell family. One of the many children treated at Golisano Children’s Hospital, Jack Bell, son of Ed and Rachel Bell, was diagnosed with stage four liver cancer at the age of two.

Because the tumor would not respond to treatment alone, Jack needed a liver transplant in partnership with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Thankfully, because of the services available at Golisano Children’s Hospital, the Bell family was able to return home less than a month after the transplant, and Jack received seven months of chemotherapy at Golisano. He is now a healthy 12-year-old boy who is thriving in school and playing sports.

“If we didn’t have this amazing children’s hospital in Fort Myers, we would have been forced to move permanently,” said Rachel Bell. “To this day, Jack goes to the hospital every two months for testing, so it continues to be very important to his survival.”

The Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Program was created in 1997 to meet the growing need for a comprehensive pediatric health care facility in Southwest Florida. The State of Florida Department of Children’s Medical Services has designated Golisano Children’s Hospital’s Hematology/Oncology Program as one of just nine centers in the state for infants and children diagnosed with cancer and blood disorders. Through the center’s membership in the Children’s Oncology Group, a cooperative research group supported by the National Cancer Institute, Golisano Children’s Hospital can ensure that patients have access to advanced therapies and the collective expertise of world-renowned specialists.

The two-day 2018 Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest includes private Chef Vintner Dinners on Friday, March 2 and The Grand Tasting and Live Auction on Saturday, March 3 at Quail West Golf and Country Club. To learn more about these initiatives and their impact on Southwest Florida children, or for more information on the 2018 event, visit www.swflwinefest.org.

SWFL Children’s Charities Inc.’s annual signature fundraiser, the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest, has raised $18.7 million over the past nine years, making it one of the top-grossing wine fests in the country. The trustees and sponsors underwrite the event and the nonprofit, SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc., donates 100 percent of the auction proceeds to local beneficiaries. Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida is the most significant beneficiary of the event, which provides health services to children from Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. In addition, SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc. grants funds to Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida SouthWestern State College to provide scholarships and equipment to educate the community’s next generation of pediatric health care professionals. Ten percent of auction proceeds will also benefit four new beneficiaries including PACE Center for Girls of Lee County, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southwest Florida, SalusCare, Inc. and The Heights Foundation. For more information, visit www.swflwinefest.org.

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