To many local families with someone stricken by cancer, Fred Klaucke is a blessing. But Klaucke insists he is the one who feels blessed to help those struggling to make ends meet while they fight for their lives.
Klaucke left the corporate world in 2000, after World of Science, the retail chain he founded and later went public, was sold. He and his wife started their self-funded Lion and The Lamb Foundation in New York before moving to Naples full-time in 2004. Just four years later, devastatingly, his wife, Laura, passed away from lung and brain cancer. He discovered Cancer Alliance of Naples shortly afterwards and was immediately drawn in. “I thought, what a wonderful organization, because they really provide hands-on, caring help,” Klaucke says. “The staff devotes so much time, energy and passion to helping people.”
Klaucke has joined that effort in part by taking low-income families served by CAN on shopping trips to their local Wal-Mart Supercenter to buy whatever they need, including food, household supplies, clothing and more. He has financially supported the organization in a myriad of ways, but is quick to underscore that it’s not just about the money.
“The disease affects the family, your ability to pay the rent when you can’t work any longer, and you lose self-esteem,” says Klaucke, who is also a board member of CAN. “I don’t want to just write a check and say, ‘Go get what you need.’ I feel my calling is to also spend time with the families, listen to what the issues are in their lives, and show them how worthwhile and wonderful they are.”
At the end of each shopping trip, he buys flowers for the ladies. From the many who never received a bouquet before, there are often tears of happiness. “If a husband is along, or if the children are old enough, I will ask them to pick out the flowers,” he adds.
Through Cancer Alliance of Naples and a variety of other local nonprofits, Klaucke has helped about 500 families through these shopping trips over the last few years. He has also sponsored CAN’s retreat program, which pays for 10 families to enjoy a three-day vacation at The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, that serves as a brief respite from the challenges of the disease.
“The more you give, the more you receive,” Klaucke says. “Everyone can do something. It doesn’t matter if we’re rich or poor, there’s always someone who needs help more than we do.”