For brand-new parents, it can be hard to tell the difference between a “normal” symptom and a dangerous one. But when Laura Bendell noticed pinprick-sized spots on her baby girl’s eyes, her mother’s intuition fired on all cylinders.

The medical community refers to these blotches as petechiae, or round discolorations that appear on the skin as a result of bleeding. While these can be a symptom of various common health issues, they can also be an early warning sign of leukemia. Unfortunately for four-month-old Lilly, it turned out to be the latter.

As an infant, Lilly spent two years in intensive treatment at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida for her leukemia. Adjacent to HealthPark Medical Center, the hospital provides convenient access to exceptional oncology and pediatric services for local children like Lilly. Plus, the experienced, compassionate care team at Golisano Children’s Hospital has achieved a recovery rate that surpasses the national average.

Lilly’s family worked hard to maintain a positive attitude, despite somber circumstances. “We are so thankful and blessed to have had such an easy time during Lilly’s treatment. Our prayers were answered, and we had peace about her situation,” said her mom, Laura. “We knew kids and families who did not get the result we did. That part of things is still hard to reconcile, because no kid or family deserves for these things to happen.”

For families who may need a little extra support, Barbara’s Friends can help. Serving as the hospital’s cancer fund, Barbara’s Friends exists to help alleviate the strain on families and ensure that every child who needs critical oncology and pediatric services can affordably access this care, regardless of their family’s financial situation. Generous gifts from caring donors cover child psychology services, infusion equipment, and the very best in healthcare for the hospital’s young charges.

Thanks to the medical professionals at Golisano Children’s Hospital and Barbara’s Friends, Lilly is now a healthy, energetic seven-year-old. She dreams of becoming an emergency room doctor when she grows up. An incredibly goofy big sister, Lilly loves to pull silly pranks on her family. She also likes to explore into new hobbies. So far, she enjoys figure skating, gymnastics, swimming, climbing trees, painting, drawing, baking and crafts!

Lilly’s family strongly encourages Southwest Florida donors to support Golisano Children’s Hospital. “I would tell anyone who donates to the hospital or pediatric unit that their contribution is not only appreciated, but is meeting a critical need. Children’s cancer deserves the same awareness as adult cancers, which sometimes receive the most notoriety and funds,” said Laura.

In honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Lilly will join Barbara’s Friends for its annual Clips for Cancer fundraiser. Proceeds benefit the families who need life-saving care at Golisano Children’s Hospital. Join Lilly on Friday, Sept. 25 as she shaves the head of Michael Fly, Coach of Florida Gulf Coast University’s Men’s Basketball team.

“Cancer has touched my family just like it has many others. So, when an opportunity presents itself for me to join the fight, I am all in! As the parent of a 13-month-old child, I cannot imagine the tremendous amount of fear, pain, and stress that comes along with a child’s cancer diagnosis. By shaving my head, I hope to be able to bring our community together to recognize the unbelievable strength of these families, the good work being done through Barbara’s Friends at Golisano’s, and to rally around them all in support!”, says Coach Fly.

Become a part of the cycle of giving and show your support for Lilly by donating today at