The Good Neighbor Awards recognize REALTORSŪ who've made an extraordinary commitment to improving the quality of life in their communities through volunteer work. Five winners will receive $10,000 grants for their cause. The 2009 deadline will be May 22.
2008 Good Neighbor Finalists Announced
Good Neighbor Finalist Funds Pediatric Cancer Research
Howard G. Freeman, Freeman Realty, Inc., Gainesville, Fla.
Since his daughter, Bonnie, was diagnosed with leukemia more than 24 years ago, Howard Freeman has raised money to support research on preventing, treating, and curing cancer in children.
He founded STOP! Children’s Cancer with his wife and daughters in 1981, and has since raised more than $2 million to fund research and purchase equipment for the divisions of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Pediatric Neuro-oncology, and the Brain Institute at the University of Florida College of Medicine.
“What just amazed me is how Bonnie and other kids [with cancer] could one day be close to death when they’re on chemo, and the next day bounce right back and say, ‘OK, let’s get going. What are we going to do?’ That really inspired me to do what we could to make other children’s lives better,” says Freeman.
And though Bonnie lost her fight with the disease, Freeman has indeed improved other children's lives. For, example, says Stephen Hunger, M.D., chief of pediatric hematology/oncology division, specialized treatments for children with neuroblastoma, a leading form of childhood cancer, were discovered with the help of grants from STOP! and are now widely used throughout the country.
STOP! has become one of the most successful charities in North Central Florida and a model for other organizations. Another grieving family in Palm Beach County, Fla., got permission to use the organization name to start a second chapter.
Last year alone, Freeman raised more than $350,000 for STOP!. In 2003, the organization committed $100,000 a year for 10 years to fund additional research grant applications and has built up $673,000 in a legacy fund to fund pediatric cancer research in perpetuity.
Today 80 percent of children diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, the disease that killed Bonnie, are cured.
“As a result of Bonnie's illness, many children have been helped," says Freeman. "Although Bonnie is no longer with us, her spirit lives through STOP!”