Foundation’s benefit raises money to help kids with cancer

Published: Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 10:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 10:41 p.m.

Her big, brown eyes shine back through the years-old photograph. Even though her story is a tragic one, Keira Grace's memory offers hope to children like her.

On Saturday night, guests filled the Santa Fe Fine Arts Hall with a common goal: to share the cure. More than 100 friends, supporters and fundraisers enjoyed the evening in celebration of the Keira Grace Foundation's 8th annual Share the Cure event.

"It's so rewarding to think of how relatively little you can invest to save a child's life, and the impact of that is just unspeakable," said Dr. Michael Lauzardo, co-founder of the Keira Grace Foundation, which helps deliver cancer treatment to children in developing nations.

Michael and Eileen Lauzardo, both Gainesville physicians, are reminded daily of an ordeal that no family should have to endure. In 2003, both their 4-year-old son Ryan and 1-year-old daughter Keira Grace were diagnosed with different forms of leukemia.

The disease claimed Keira Grace's life when she was just 17 months old.

Today, the foundation enables cancer treatment in developing nations by connecting medical teams in less-advantaged countries with oncologists, cancer treatment facilities and support organizations from developed countries.

Lauzardo explained that the development and success of the foundation are based on the relationships within the Gainesville community.

"In a place like Gainesville, you have such a giving community," Lauzardo said. "I don't think we could have done this in any other community and, to be honest, without the community, we're nothing."

In a ribbon-cutting ceremony, the foundation presented a new five-story host home in the Dominican Republic for cancer patients and their families. The home will provide a place for extended overnight stays during cancer treatments.

The target date for opening the house is March 14.

Saturday night's Share the Cure event began with dinner and cocktails, followed by a musical performance by Nathalie Hernandez from NBC's "The Voice." Guests made financial pledges to support the foundation.

According to Lauzardo, the goal this year is to raise at least $80,000. He said the most anticipated part of the event is when he can report back and show something tangible that donors and supporters have helped achieve.

The night ended with an after-party in celebration of the foundation's progress over its eight years of work.

Chris Doering, former star Gator wide receiver, has been a supporter of the foundation for several years. He witnessed the construction of the house and announced the opportunity for others to visit the Dominican Republic in May or June and see firsthand the house's impact on the community.

"I think people are shocked to hear that these folks can be helped for very little money, and so I think people have really gotten behind that."

Doering said that he has continued his involvement with the foundation because of the Lauzardos' ability to take the pain of their loss and turn it into something that is helping so many people. On stage, he presented the foundation with a $2,000 check.

"Many times you pray for the miracle of God saving one little girl, but sometimes God has a bigger idea and uses that one little girl to save many lives," Lauzardo said. "And so I ask -- what's the bigger miracle? Sometimes we just don't think big enough."

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