Second annual event for patient care fund was a smashing success
With a name like Squishfest, it’s got to be fun. At the same time, the high-spirited party benefits a worthy cause – the Barb Leslie Patient Care Fund, which provides financial assistance to cancer patients and their families.
Squish is a band composed of four Cleveland Clinic employees, three of them physicians. “The guys are a lot of fun,” says Terry Roncagli, LISWS, a Cleveland Clinic social worker who has helped the band get bookings.
The band became involved with the fund through Mr. Roncagli, who started it with fellow social workers. “Barb Leslie was our colleague and friend who died of ovarian cancer in 1996,” he says. “The same year she passed away, she received the Bruce Stewart Fellowship in recognition of her passion and excellence. She was [at Cleveland Clinic] for only a few years, but she really left a mark.”
For the most part, independent donors have kept the fund alive. It helps patients who have been diagnosed with cancer pay for medically related expenses that insurance won’t cover, Mr. Roncagli says. “If they need to get to chemotherapy treatments, the fund might provide a gas card for them. They may need prescriptions, home-care equipment, even help with utilities or rent.” The fund also covers incidentals such as parking, meals and bandages. “There are a lot of hidden expenses you don’t think about,” he says.
Thanks to Squishfest, more people are becoming aware of the fund.
The first event, in 2008, attracted 150 people and raised $3,400. “We thought it was a one-time deal,” Mr. Roncagli says, but people were enthusiastic for more. This year’s event on May 30 drew more than 200 attendees and raised more than $6,200. “Already, people are asking about next year,” he says.
Hospitalist Christopher Whinney, MD, started Squish in 2001 after joining Cleveland Clinic in August of that year. His bandmates are Collin Kroen, MD, a fellow hospitalist; Richard Fatica, MD, a nephrologist; and Michael Zuschin, assistant director of Decision Support Services.
They play covers of rock, blues and alternative music, from Elvis and the Doobie Brothers to U2 and the Violent Femmes.
“We love doing it,” says Dr. Whinney, who plays guitar and sings some backup. “We’re not looking to make money from this. We do it for fun.”
He even had fun naming the band, using a word that invokes summer and “sand squishing between your toes.” But he and his fellow band members are serious about making sure Squishfest attendees have a good time. “This is such an important benefit,” he says. “We want it to be successful.”
Dr. Whinney and Mr. Roncagli both credit Frances Ambrosio of Extendicare nursing facilities for her work in planning Squishfest. Extendicare and MedCorp, which provides ambulance and medical transport services, underwrote the cost both years so that all proceeds went to the Barb Leslie fund.
At this year’s party, Squish was better than ever, Ambrosio says. “They were awesome.” By the second and third sets, the dance floor was packed, she adds. “The band played till 1:30 in the morning. People stayed till then. It was a feel-good event.”
To make a gift supporting the Barb Leslie Patient Care Fund, Taussig Cancer Institute or any area of Cleveland Clinic, visit our secure online giving site, or call Institutional Relations and Development at 216.444.1245 or toll-free at 800.223.2273, ext. 41245.