Volunteer seeks a cure for leukemia after his dad’s death.
Sometimes when the worst happens, it brings out the best in people. Bill Feinberg is such a person.
The story began 20 years ago when he and his brother, Joe, opened Allied Kitchen and Bath on West Oakland Park Boulevard in Wilton Manors.
From the start, he said, the remodeling business did well, so well that shortly after the startup, brothers Robert and David and parents Nate and Harriett moved from Philadelphia to join in.
Eventually, the long hours paid off and the family was able to relax a little and enjoy its success. But one weekend in April 2003, everything changed. Feinberg’s dad, by then 71, appeared to have a mild cold, but after a visit to the doctor and some blood tests was told to immediately check into the hospital. Shortly after that, he was diagnosed with acute leukemia. He died six weeks later. “It was so painful. You don’t have time to even think,” said Feinberg, now 45.
Three weeks later, with the family still reeling from the loss, Feinberg decided there had to be something he could do to help prevent others from being affected by the cruel illness. He called the Southern Florida chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to find a cure for leukemia and other blood-related illness. The chapter is based in Hollywood and serves Broward Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Feinberg spoke with the chapter’s executive director, Ariane Miller-Ice, and said, Let’s meet and talk. I think I can raise $10,000.”
Applying the same work ethic he’d used in his business, Feinberg and friend Scott Schenker, 51, of Parkland, a 4 1/2-year survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, organized a fund-raiser. On Nov. 21, 2003, they raised almost $100,000 at their first Decorative, Dine & Donate Auction at the Florida Builder Appliances showroom in Pompano Beach.
At their second fund-raiser recently, they brought in $150,000. Schenker said he is just looking to give back. “I’m very focused on raising money, and my heart and soul are in it,” he said. “We accidentally raised $100,000 the first year but we learned a lot,” said Larry Lewis, 58, of Weston, president of Florida Builder Appliances. “Even though it was a tough year with hurricane relief, we raised $50,000 more [in 2004].”
Feinberg said his priorities have changed since the loss of his father. I’ve learned a lot,” he said. I’ve seen all of the children who are afflicted.”
In August, Feinberg became president of the board of the leukemia society’s Southern Florida chapter. And when the national organization’s strategic leadership conference took place Nov. 11 to 13 in Denver, he got to attend along with Miller-Ice and board member David Weiss, 43, of Plantation.
As part of the conference, Feinberg said, he was privileged to listen to researchers from throughout the world speak about new developments toward finding a cure. “I personally got to experience what is going on,” he said.
Joe Feinberg, who, like Bill, lives in Coral Springs, finds people who make donations for the silent and live auctions at the fund-raisers. After losing his father so quickly, h gained a new awareness. “It makes you realize that life is a gift, and you don’t know how long you have here,” he said.
Bill Feinberg continues to seek new arenas to raise money so that the day will come when leukemia and lymphoma are diseases of the past, like polio. He is searching for a celebrity to help spread the message and would like to see a leukemia and lymphoma license plate with a portion of that money going to the society. “Why not?” he said. “They do it for breast cancer.”
For more information, call the Southern Florida chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society at 954-961-3234 or visit www.lls.org.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Businessman and leukemia fund-raiser Bill Feinberg attends his second annual Decorate, Dine & Donate Auction with guest of honor Catherine Hugo, 5, of Coral Springs, who was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia and is in remission.