The Michael H. Flanagan Foundation will celebrate 10 years of comforting leukemia patients and their families this month.
The non-profit charitable organization was founded in 2002 following the passing of its namesake, who was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 19. Mr. Flanagan’s battle with the disease lasted three years. It included two bone marrow transplants and according to the organization’s website, weeks in isolation waiting for his new immune system to develop.
The group’s director, Christine Griffin, is Mr. Flanagan’s sister and a Barrington resident. She said the organization’s primary mission is to provide comfort for those fighting leukemia and their families.
A key part of the foundation’s work has been the creation of “comfort bags,” which are presented to new leukemia induction patients and those admitted to bone marrow transplant units.
Each bag includes items to help comfort patients and pass the time during treatment such as a phone card, a blanket and pillow, a journal, personal hygiene items and playing cards, among other items.
These bags, however, are only one facet of the organization’s efforts. The foundation has also funded the renovation of a family room in the bone marrow transplant unit at Tufts. The room is a comfortable, soothing place with a children’s area, views of the Boston skyline, books, toys and a movie, music and video library.
The group also purchased nine infusion chairs for Tufts, which provide comfort to patients receiving and recovering from treatment, and Ms. Griffin said the foundation is currently working to help improve the family room on the Rhode Island Hospital oncology floor.
Grants are another core aspect of the foundation. To date, more than 125 financial grants have been distributed to patients through the organization. Additionally, the foundation provides on-going financial assistance to nursing education, the purchase of computers for Miriam Hospital’s patient waiting area and education rooms, the purchase of video game systems to help patients pass the time and the institution of a hospitality program in the oncology clinic at Tufts that consists of complimentary drinks and snacks for patients with long treatment sessions.
It’s a lengthy list of contributions from an organization born of a conversation among four family members. Ms. Griffin said the foundation’s inception can be traced back to a day she sat with her husband and parents a few months after her brother had passed away.
“It was something to give back. To keep the pages turning instead of closing the chapter on my brother’s life,” she said.
Ms. Griffin said her brother was fortunate to have people around him during his fight, providing emotional and financial support that many patients go without. Ms. Griffin said Mr. Flanagan wanted to help others. A girl of his floor, for example, didn’t have pajamas. Mr. Flanagan, in turn, asked his girlfriend to pick her up a pair.
Mr. Flanagan also continues to be a driving force behind the organization’s efforts. Ms. Griffin said music was a big part of her brother’s life and accordingly, the foundation makes an effort to ensure patients battling leukemia have music available to them.
Ms. Griffin said she is proud of how far the foundation has come in 10 years and never thought the organization would be able to do so much. She praised her family members, board members and others for the organization’s success.
The 10 year anniversary celebration for the Michael H. Flanagan Foundation will be held at Rhode Island Country Club on Friday, Sept. 21. The evening will feature a short speaking program, a silent auction and attendees will be able to register as bone marrow donors. The evening will also serve as a fund-raiser. Those wishing to purchase tickets can visit www.MikesFoundation.com or e-mail [email protected]