The Advocate

Laura Gilkey Is a Passionate Advocate for Pediatric Cancer Research

After losing her son, Benjamin, to cancer at just 9 years old, Laura Gilkey created a fund to support innovative oncology care for children.

By Megan McDonald September 17, 2020 Published in the September-October 2020 issue of Sarasota Magazine

Laura Gilkey

Laura Gilkey

Image: Alan Cresto

In 2014, Laura Gilkey’s youngest son, Benjamin, 7, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. A longtime maternal health advocate who says fund raising is baked into her DNA, Gilkey credits her professional experience for preparing her to speak up for her son as he navigated years of treatments.

Gilkey, 43, penned a loving diary of their cancer journey on her website, filled with hope and then heart-wrenching pain after Benjamin passed away in 2017 at just 9 years old. Determined to support his healthcare team at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, she created the Benjamin Gilkey Fund for Innovative Pediatric Cancer Research. It currently has raised more than $769,000.

Gilkey has spearheaded numerous local fund-raising events and partnerships, including one with the Tampa Bay Rays. While 2020 prevents in-person fund raisers, she encourages people to support pediatric cancer research virtually, and hopes to launch a new website to take her efforts to a national level.

“Benjamin’s primary oncologist, Dr. Benjamin Oshrine, is brilliant,” she says. “He was relentless in trying to find clinical trials, new pharmaceuticals, anything he could do to help. My hope for the fund is to always stay ahead of Dr. Oshrine and his team. I have a recurring dream in which I picture him walking into a family’s room and offering them a new treatment because of Benji’s fund.”

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