The Inspiration Behind Barbara’s Friends

Barbara Haskell

There are many people behind the creation of the new Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, but Barbara Haskell is central to its origin and especially its signature hematology and oncology program. A vivacious young woman who rode horses competitively and later worked for General Motors in Michigan, her life was cut short by breast cancer.

After four years of treatment in Southwest Florida, Barbara died in January 1995 at the age of 36. During her years of treatment, she was moved by the bravery of the children who experienced the harsh side effects of cancer treatment alongside her. She often wondered how they could cope with the treatments that were sometimes as difficult as the disease itself.

Helping Southwest Florida Kids Battling Cancer

Barbara’s parents, Frank and the late Betty Haskell, had relocated here in the 1980s and were already early supporters of building a free-standing children’s hospital. At that time, children’s services were scattered throughout HealthPark Medical Center – known at that time as the “hospital within a hospital.”

After Barbara’s passing, her parents helped make her wish to help children come true by establishing Barbara’s Friends — Golisano Children’s Hospital Cancer Fund. They had an ambitious goal to raise $100,000. Fast forward 25 years since Barbara’s passing and the fund named in her honor has raised more than $20 million from more than 10,000 donors.

In May 2017, Golisano Children’s Hospital opened adjacent to HealthPark Medical Center in Fort Myers. The opening of the new facility included the establishment of the Barbara’s Friends Hematology Oncology Center, located on the fifth floor. This center has treated more than 8,000 Southwest Florida children with cancer and blood disorder close to home.

The Barbara’s Friends rainbow logo is a nod to Barbara’s love of the classic film “The Wizard of Oz” and its star Judy Garland singing the memorable song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Rainbows continue to hold a special meaning for Frank, a natural spectacle in which his daughter is ever present. “Today, to have this wonderful facility is the greatest thrill of my life,” said Frank Haskell. “Losing a child of your own before you go is a devastating thing to have happened. This has kept her life ongoing. I think of her every single day.”


Donate to Honor Barbara’s Memory

You can help keep Barbara’s memory alive while also helping Southwest Florida children battling cancer. Making a lifesaving donation to Barbara’s Friends provides hope and healing to a local family in need. It also aids Golisano Children’s Hospital in ensuring every child receives the best care possible, close to home.