The Foundation’s History


For more than sixty years, the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, has been a strong and supportive partner for families living with thalassemia. Although now national in scope, CAF began on a local level – a fact reflected in the continuing importance of our local chapters.

In 1954, Frank Ficarra was a young Italian-American businessman working and living in Brooklyn when two of his young children were diagnosed with a rare blood disease, Cooley’s anemia, also known as thalassemia major.

Frank Ficarra began organizing neighborhood blood drives to make sure that his children and others like them would have the precious blood they needed to survive. Even though these blood drives were successful, Frank Ficarra realized that more was needed.

One autumn night, Frank Ficarra and the parents of other Cooley’s anemia patients met in the back of his Brooklyn butcher shop to discuss what they could do to help their children and let the world know about this rare disease. From that meeting, the seeds of the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation were sown.

Since that night, CAF has grown into a national and international force with an extraordinary record of accomplishments. CAF established the first Fellowship Program for thalassemia research and has become a strong voice in Washington for thalassemia patients and their families.

Today, Frank Ficarra’s son, Robert, serves as CAF Vice President of International Affairs and continues the work his father began on an international scale, reaching out to patients in every corner of the globe where medical knowledge and supplies are lacking.

What began as the story of one man’s family is today the story of many families working together toward a common goal – better treatments and a cure for a disease which threatens their most precious resource – their children.