By Cypress Cove resident Robert Runck
The view in Frank Haskell’s apartment has given him joy every day since he and his wife Betty moved to Cypress Cove. You will need to understand his special connection to the fountain outside his window and to Galisano Children’s Hospital to understand why…
After the death of their daughter Barbara, Betty and Frank Haskell decided to celebrate her life with the founding of Barbara’s Friends Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Center as part of the Golisano Children’s Hospital Cancer Center.
Barbara used to watch the Wizard of Oz each year, and especially enjoyed Judy Garland singing “Over the Rainbow”. At the opening of Barbara’s Friends one rainy day, Betty and Frank were stunned to see the most beautiful rainbow in the sky as they walked to their car. So, the logo became a rainbow, with a heart at the end, signifying “Love and Hope at the End of the Rainbow.” The song of “Over the Rainbow” became the theme music of choice. Since that time, we often hear “‘Over the Rainbow” after a Barbara’s Friends event.
Barbara’s Friends has been the beacon of the Haskells’ life for 22 years. They are blessed to have become important in the lives of many children with cancer and blood disorders. The pediatric medical teams perform life-saving daily activities for those children, and the donor base supports the need for continued financial support. They are all members of Barbara’s Friends.
Frank Haskell began his working life with the Burroughs Adding Machine Company, where over a 30-year career, he moved up from sales trainee to Vice President and Corporate Director of World Marketing. After retiring from Burroughs, he joined a startup as Vice President and part owner of Spectrum sales Training Corporation, then moved on to be President and General Manager of Moore Business Systems. In college, he met and married Betty Ann Tarr, his lifelong wife and helpmate. Frank and Betty retired to Fort Myers in 1987 and moved to Cypress Cove in 2011.
Frank’s sales mantra, “If you don’t ask for the order, you won’t get the order” translated in retirement to “if you don’t ask for the contribution, you won’t get the contribution.”
Frank joined the Children’s Hospital Development Board in 1990. The Nemours Children’s Clinic opened in 1992 and was the principal pediatric medical provider at that time. Nemours left in 1997, but 15 of its doctors stayed behind. The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida opened in 1994. The dedication and loyalty of those doctors to stay and open a new hospital means the world to the HaskeIls and heIped frame the efforts of Barbara’s Friends.
Frank started the Red Sox Children’s Hospital Celebrity Golf Classic in 1994 and donated all the funds it raised to the Children’s Hospital Development Board.
An Ambulatory Unit was purchased in 1995, the Pediatric Rehab Center opened in 1996, and the Extended Care Center opened in 1997 for medically dependent children. Barbara’s Friends Children’s Hospital Cancer Fund was founded in 1995.
Barbara’s Friends has raised more than $21 million over the years. This money came from more than 10,000 donors, solicited by periodic newsletters and mail requests, plus annual fund-raising events. Low-income donors were wonderful, for what they gave came from the heart. The smallest donation was $2.50 from an older lady, stating “she wished she could do more.”
One hundred percent of the funds raised have been used to provide care and family financial assistance for local children suffering cancer and blood illnesses and provided funds for five Children’s Hospital Oncology/Hematology facilities, including $11.5 million for the Golisano Children’s Hospital. The whole fifth floor of the new hospital is the location of the Barbara’s Friends Pediatric Hematology Center.
Dr. Emad Salman became Director of the Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida Hematology/Oncology Medical Program in 1997. Barbara’s Friends Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Center opened in 1999. “Dr. Salman has saved a countless number of kids from dying,” Frank says. “He explains to the parents and kids when they first come in with cancer, what is going to happen and what they should be aware of. He’ll even wear Mickey Mouse shirts.”
Frank and Betty turned the tragic loss of their daughter Barbara into a legacy of saving lives of children with cancer. Barbara’s Friends, along with the clinical leadership of Dr. Emad Salrnan and the staff of Golisano Children’s Hospital, have developed one of the best pediatric oncology/hematology programs in the nation with excellent outcomes and great patient and family support.
The inspiration for the name, Barbara’s Friends, came from the experiences Frank’s wife Betty and daughter Barbara shared as they traveled the country, “They met a lot of children along the way, some of them in tragic pain,” Frank said. Before she died, Barbara was assured more would be done to treat children and fund programs. Barbara’s Friends came to life. “We thought we would raise about $100,000” Frank said. “Now, we have surpassed $20 million.”
The original name was Barbara’s HematoIogy/Oncology Fund. “It was pretty long to write on a check,” Frank said. So, they received rare permission from the state of Florida to shorten the name to Barbara’s Friends through the Lee Memorial Health System Foundation.
After helping fund pediatric ambulatory rehabilitation and extended care centers at the children’s hospital from 1995 to 1997, Barbara’s Friends Pediatric Hematology/Oncology center was created in 1998, Barbara’s Friends Medical Library for Health Park in 1998, followed by the establishment of Barbara’s Friends’ permanent endowment in 2002.
“Money is raised and 100 percent of it stays in Southwest Florida,” Haskell said. It also has helped create Palmer the Turtle stuffed animal, coloring books, medical books for children and parents, as well as a reading unit. Medical equipment, family financial aid and family meals while a child is hospital bound also are funded.
Haskell was honored by the Red Sox at Fenway Park on his 80th birthday. “All I could think of as I stood at home plate is that it was the same ground that Williams, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Yastrzemski, and others stood at and performed during their historic baseball careers. Truly a special thrill in my life.”
His ties to the Red Sox started in 1993 when the team hired him to operate the scoreboard at the Red Sox former spring training home at City of Palms Park. “I was there for the ground-breaking of City of Palms Park, and I liked working for the Red Sox,” Frank said.
The Haskells also bring rainbows to children in the form of presents during a Christmas Party each year at Lexington Country Club. Frank has heard incredible stories from the children, touched the most by the heart-wrenching ones. “One child wanted a pair of shoes. Another child wished her mother and father would get back to together again. It touches the heart. It is interesting how dear and sweet these kids are.”
Children seldom survived acute lymphatic leukemia 50 years ago. Through the Haskells’ work and the efforts of countless others with Barbara’ Friends, as well as other fund-raising projects across the country, the survival rate is now about 87 percent.
As he watched the children’s hospital go up a brick at a time, Frank looked forward to the day when it opened in 2017 and looks forward to the day when the cure rate reaches 100 percent. What would Barbara say to him now: “I think she would say ‘attaboy.’”