$1 million gift will help establish children’s cancer center

Posted June 12, 2012, at 3:57 p.m.
Raish Peavey Haskell
Courtesy of the Haskell family
Raish Peavey Haskell

MILFORD-GREENBUSH, Maine — Leon Haskell of Greenbush and Anita Peavey Haskell of Milford and Greenbush have donated $1 million to Eastern Maine Medical Center’ new children’s cancer treatment center in memory of their son, Raish, who died of cancer at age 4 in 1977. The gift was made official during a private ceremony on May 30 at the Lafayette Center. The center will be named the Raish Peavey Haskell Children’s Cancer Treatment Center and housed on the third floor of the EMMC’s Lafayette Family Cancer Center in Brewer.

Leon is a retired construction supervisor for Cianbro and Anita spent 30 years teaching English and social studies to sixth-graders in Milford.

Raish, Anita Peavey Haskell said in remarks at the ceremony, was born a seemingly healthy baby, but by age 4 months was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a cancerous tumor of the retina, a part of the eye.

Raish was a beautiful blonde, blue-eyed child who loved playing with Legos, she said. By the time he was 4, he could build, all on his own, intricate structures and construction machinery made with Legos. He also loved books and his favorite was “Big Joe’s Bulldozers and Trucks.”

Leon Haskell recalled that it was very difficult to watch their son go through the pain and suffering of the illness and treatment. In spite of the trials he endured, Anita said, Raish had a happy disposition.

Raish’s treatment took place at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, a long way from home, putting an additional stress on the family.

The devastation of that period in their lives left an indelible impression and Anita resolved to do everything she could to ease things for other families with children facing similar situations. She and Leon didn’t want other children to go through what Raish went through.

Raish died on Mother’s Day and was buried on his father’s birthday. “From that moment on it became my mission to help children like him and their families,” Anita said. In time, she became involved in establishing the Ronald McDonald house in Bangor, which provides housing and other services for families with children receiving treatment for cancer and other illnesses.

The Haskell’s gift is an important boost to the children’s cancer treatment center’s $3.4 million fundraising campaign, leaving $600,000 yet to be raised.

“Whatever we did was easy,” Anita said. “Raish did the hard part.”

When completed the new children’s cancer and treatment center will offer outpatient care in a welcoming and comforting atmosphere with lots of natural light. Patients will consult with oncology physicians in the same location where they receive treatment, eliminating the need for treatment in two different places. The center will provide treatment to children of all ages from infants to young adults. Suggestions from parents and siblings have been incorporated into the design of the center, including playrooms for patients and their siblings, a kitchen area for snacks and meals, special areas for playing games, watching videos or studying and a private quiet area where families and staff can retreat.

The Raish Peavey Haskell Children’s Cancer Treatment Center is tentatively scheduled to open Dec. 17 on the third floor of the Lafayette Center in Brewer. A special component included in the center’s decor will be a 5-foot diameter latch hook rug depicting “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” that Anita handmade after Raish was born and finished after his death.

To make a donation to the fundraising campaign for the children’s cancer treatment center or to obtain information, call EMMC Healthcare Charities at 973-5055.

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