Climbing for Harriet

Ron Farb and his sister, Harriet.

No mountain stands too tall for Ron Farb in his quest to fight cancer. For him, it’s personal.

Some people run marathons while others hold rock concerts, but Farb climbs the tallest mountains in the world to help cancer patients and their families conquer their own summits, no matter how big or small. His foundation, Climb for Cancer, supports programs that provide care and services for cancer patients at UF and Shands.

Farb named the charity’s patient assistance  program, Harriet’s Helping Hand, for his sister, Harriet Farb. In October, she lost her 20-year battle with breast cancer. While visiting Harriet during her chemotherapy treatments, Farb noticed the family members of some patients would eat from the patient trays because they could not afford food. Other patients were forced to skip treatments because they couldn’t pay for gas to drive to the hospital or the $4 to park.

To honor his sister, Farb started the program to help defray the cost of gas, parking and food for cancer patients and families treated at Shands at UF.

“It’s such a basic need that has resonated more with our donors than any program we have funded or created,” he said. “A lot of people don’t donate because they feel they can’t afford to help — but $4 is really making a difference.”

Climb for Cancer also raises “seed money” for the early phases of cancer research projects and funds an  annual sports camp at UF for kids with cancer.

Despite a nationwide decline in charitable giving, Farb wants to help all families that come to Shands at UF for cancer treatment.

For him, it’s just another summit to surmount. Farb, who climbed Mount Everest at the fresh age of 59, likens mountain climbing to overcoming the physical challenges of cancer, as Harriet did.

Six years after her initial diagnosis, the disease relapsed and doctors told Harriet she had six months to live. She lived another 12 years and became the first person to climb Mount Kilimanjaro while undergoing chemotherapy.

This July, Farb will return to Mount Kilimanjaro to scatter Harriet’s ashes from the summit for her final trek. But with Harriet’s Helping Hand, others will climb on.

— Shayna Brouker

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Spring 2011

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