Henderson, Golisano Children’s Hospital and SWFL community leaders go bald to help kids with cancer

As part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September, City of Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson will have his head shaved by Sarai, a six-year-old pediatric cancer patient at Golisano Children’s Hospital, at the second annual Clips for Cancer event on Friday, Sept. 27.

Sarai was an active, energetic 5-year-old, always smiling. On Thanksgiving Day 2018, she was playing with her family and enjoying a bounce house. Everything changed the next day when Sarai woke up and complained of a tummy ache. She wouldn’t let her mom touch her belly, and by that evening, Sarai spiked a fever. She told her mom she had a pillow in her belly. Sarai’s parents took her to the emergency room with a bloated abdomen. Doctors thought it could be a twisted intestine and ordered surgery at Golisano Children’s Hospital. During surgery, the doctor removed a tumor near her bladder. The diagnosis was cancer, stage 4. Treatment began immediately.

Sarai needed radiation five days a week for several months, and is currently receiving chemotherapy treatments. She missed the rest of her kindergarten year and lost all her long, jet-black hair. Through it all, Sarai keeps smiling and lights up a room with her laugh. She wears sparkly ballet slippers to chemo with a tutu skirt and big hair bow. Her nails are painted bright pink with yellow polka dots. She’s brave and just wants to go back to school.

“She is stronger than I am,” says her mom, Adela. “I don’t know what we’d do without Golisano. We are family here. All the doctors and nurses know Sarai – and all love her. They’ve done everything and more to help us.”

Sarai hopes to complete chemo and end weekly visits to the hospital this October. She will still come back for regular checkups, but her goal is to be a first-grader and make it through the full year of school.

“When our children are suffering from this wretched disease called cancer, we are compelled to rally for them and with them any way possible,” commented Mayor Randy Henderson. “We know they can fight it off with our help and encouragement when combined with modern medical advances. Let’s all join to embrace this challenge with and for our children.”

Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida Chief Administrative Officer Armando Llechu, alongside dozens of doctors and team members, community leaders and influential individuals from Southwest Florida, will have their heads shaved by pediatric cancer patients in the main atrium of the children’s hospital during Clips for Cancer.

To raise awareness and drive philanthropic support that will help local children with cancer, these “hero sidekicks” are asking the Southwest Florida community to come together and make donations to Barbara’s Friends – Golisano Children’s Hospital Cancer Fund. For more than 20 years, Barbara’s Friends has supported lifesaving cancer care for children across Southwest Florida at Golisano Children’s Hospital. The Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Program is the only program of its kind in Southwest Florida, and no child is denied treatment or turned away as a result of their family’s inability to pay for care.

“The children truly are the real heroes, the ‘sidekicks’ provide encouragement during a time when our heroes need all the help they can get to battle this evil disease,” expressed Llechu on the heroes and sidekicks event theme. “It’s heartwarming to see this level of support once again for the brave children during their battle with cancer. Through this head-shaving event, we can show these children that bald is beautiful, bald is strong and no matter what, we are fighting alongside them. While we may never have the strength they do, we are with them on their journey.”

Twenty-eight local Great Clips salons are donating their time and skills to clean up the “sidekicks” after the pediatric patients have finished shaving.

For more information about helping kids with cancer, go to LeeHealthFoundation.org/ClipsForCancer.

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 two 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 2018 Most Beautiful Hospital in the U.S., a recognition determined by popular vote. For more information, visit GolisanoChildrensSWFL.org.