"Kids supporting and embracing this cause is extremely heartwarming"
While her youngest daughter was battling bone cancer, Rene Giacalone, 42, of Melville, NY, was able to manage the emotional and physical demands of daily life, thanks to her support network of family, friends and community. In response, her family founded The Honeysuckle Foundation for Children with Cancer to support and help families of young cancer patients, with a special focus on their younger relatives.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
Rene: I chair a pediatric oncology charity that funds The Honeysuckle Foundation Psychosocial Program for Children with Cancer and Blood Disorders at Schneider Children's Hospital in New York. The goal of our fundraising is not only to assist the children with cancer and their family, but also to involve all types of groups and individuals in the fundraising process. We strive to keep the “fun” in fundraising and to give everyone, even the youngest student, an opportunity to dream, plan and implement their own fundraising ideas.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Rene: The Honeysuckle Foundation for Children with Cancer, Melville, New York.
Tell us about the project, especially who benefited from this work.
Rene: This program supports a pediatric oncology program that addresses the specific emotional and psychological needs of not only the child with cancer, but their families, friends and classmates as well.
What inspired you to get involved?
Rene: My youngest daughter battled bone cancer. I know the devastation of this disease firsthand.
How did you first get involved? Give us some details.
Rene: When my daughter was finishing up chemotherapy and had raised some money during a hospital stay by selling sterling silver jewelry, she asked if we could do something to help other families. She had just lost one of her hospital roommates to cancer.
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Rene: People are genuinely good, generous and supportive. It is very rewarding, knowing there are people who will give selflessly and work tirelessly for the benefit of others.
What is/was the hardest part?
Rene: Maintaining momentum. Initially, it is very easy to get people passionate about the cause. As time moves on, keeping that excitement and passion is very challenging.
What was the biggest surprise?
Rene: Seeing where lots of the assistance comes from: school kids, religious education groups, and even science clubs. Kids supporting and embracing this cause is extremely heartwarming.
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
Rene: I have learned that while you plan, God laughs, and as with anything, you cannot get too stressed over the small stuff. It is when I have had the smallest expectation that some of the biggest rewards were reaped.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Rene: No amount of money in the world can compare to the unbelievable feeling of actually making a difference in someone's life due to your own efforts. Unfortunately, we never know at one point in our own lives when we might need someone else’s philanthropy to get us over our own hurdle.
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