Southwest Florida Children’s Charities (SWFLCC) presented checks totaling $1.7 million to Lee Health Foundation Aug. 18, making it the top donor at more than $23 million to Golisano Children’s Hospital and Lee Health in the organization’s more than 100-year history.

“We are so grateful for the support of Southwest Florida Children’s Charities,” said Chief Nursing and Operations Executive of Golisano Children’s Services Alyssa Bostwick. “Their donations have had a tremendous impact on our ability to start programs, continue programs and grow programs to support the needs and care of the children in our community.”

The nonprofit holds the annual Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest, a signature event to raise funds to improve pediatric health care services in the region.

“I think it’s been great that we’ve been able to come together as a community, focus our efforts and give back to this area and know that it’s going to benefit the children of our region and us as individual families,” said Ed Bell, president of SWFLCC. Bell became involved with the nonprofit after his son was treated for liver cancer as a child at Golisano Children’s Hospital. “Twenty-three million dollars in 14 years is phenomenal.”

From the 2022 festival, the nonprofit contributed $1 million to Golisano Children’s Hospital’s new neurosurgical services. The new specialty provides immediate care for brain and spinal cord injuries and illnesses, so that children don’t have to be transported to an out-of-area hospital when seconds count the most. Within a few months of starting, Dr. Theodore Spinks, pediatric neurosurgeon and chief of the neurosurgery program at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida in collaboration with Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, has performed 50 lifesaving surgeries, 40 at Golisano and another 10 surgeries at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.

One story shared by Dr. Spinks was of a complicated surgery for a very sick 8-year-old boy. Immanueli Kiema came to Golisano with a life-threatening brain infection. Spinks explained that the young man had been sick and lethargic, and upon arrival at the hospital, an MRI revealed that the infection had spread to his brain. Following surgery, Kiema spent nearly six weeks in the hospital recovering.

“His condition can result in seizures, stroke, even death, so time was of the essence,” said Spinks. “Not only were we able to surgically treat him at Golisano Children’s Hospital rather than transport him out of the area, but his family remained close to home. Being cared for at Golisano meant that his parents could be at his side while caring for their other child, continuing to work, and remaining close to home.”

Additionally, a check was presented for $700,000, the final payment of a $3 million pledge made in 2020 to establish the SWFL Children’s Charities Eye Institute of Golisano Children’s Hospital, which ensures access to pediatric ophthalmology care in Southwest Florida. Before the institute opened, children were waiting six months to get an appointment with one ophthalmologist working out of two makeshift rooms. Now, three doctors work in 14 examination rooms, with two more doctors coming. Nearly 7,000 patients have been treated, reducing the waitlist of more than 1,500 patients over the past two years.

Trustees, hospital officials and supporters of SWFLCC celebrated the donation milestone with a check presentation, private reception as well as tour of the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Oncology Lounge, and the child artwork created by patients for all the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest events. The AYA lounge, which was also made possible with support from SWFLCC, is a refuge with gaming, video systems and a coffee bar for young adults ages 18-29 receiving life-saving pediatric cancer treatment at Golisano Children’s Hospital.

Since 2008, SWFLCC has supported children’s healthcare at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, including raising funding to build the only children’s hospital in our region. In addition, fundraising has supported pediatric cancer, mental health, ophthalmology, neurosurgery and other children’s-based causes. Throughout its history, the nonprofit has stepped up, supporting children’s healthcare as needs are identified.

For additional information about the role of philanthropy at Lee Health or to donate, visit LeeHealthFoundation.org or call 239-343-6950.

About Lee Health Foundation 

Lee Health Foundation raises philanthropic dollars on behalf of Lee Health including Cape Coral Hospital, Gulf Coast Medical Center, HealthPark Medical Center, Lee Memorial Hospital and Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. The Foundation provides financial support for many service areas including the Lee Health Regional Cancer Center, Lee Health Coconut Point, The Rehabilitation Hospital, Shipley Cardiothoracic Center, Community Health Clinics and Golisano Children’s Hospital Specialty Clinics in both Charlotte and Naples. For more information, please visit LeeHealthFoundation.org.