Art and soul


MLaw alumnus honors late wife with foundation

By Jeanine Matlow
Legal News

For Daniel Buckfire, a cum laude graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, one of life’s greatest joys would be followed by some devastating news.

In May 2005, just eight weeks after his wife, Lori Haber Buckfire, gave birth to their first child, she was diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer. After she passed away in July 2010 at the age of 41, the Lori Haber Buckfire Foundation would be created in her memory. 

The Planet Lori Art Camp that was created by the foundation is designed for children who had or have a parent or close relative with cancer. This is especially fitting because Lori was an artist who loved children and spent many afternoons enjoying art projects with their son, Hayden.

Before his wife’s passing, Buckfire was a partner with his brother, Lawrence, at Buckfire & Buckfire PC in Southfield, specializing in plaintiff personal injury litigation, with an emphasis on Michigan No-Fault Law.

The firm was originally started by their parents who were both attorneys and business partners.

“I grew up listening to them talk about their cases at the dinner table and found the law to be very interesting,” says Buckfire, who earned his undergraduate degree in accounting from the University of Michigan Business School. 

After losing his wife, he found his heavy workload made it difficult to be a single parent.

“I eventually came to the conclusion that being a lawyer is an all-or-nothing business and I wanted to spend quality time with my son where I was not exhausted and preoccupied with my work,” he says.

Since Buckfire stopped actively practicing law, he’s been investing in real estate and he opened a cryotherapy business in Berkley with a business partner and invested in other businesses as well. In addition, he is currently Of Counsel to Buckfire & Buckfire PC and handling a few cases.

His wife, who once owned a successful jewelry business in Los Angeles, earned an art degree from Arizona State University. After her diagnosis, she became an advocate for others battling cancer, counseling patients and their families. She was also a top fundraiser for the American Cancer Society and spoke at various events for different organizations.

“Lori was a wonderful woman, and a great mother and wife,” Buckfire says.

Their son Hayden, now 12, enjoys tennis and baseball and is currently playing Little League baseball where he’s a pitcher and his father is an assistant coach. Though his dad says their son is a talented artist, his current focus is sports.

For several years, Hayden went to art camp at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center (BBAC) where the Planet Lori Art Camp ( will be held this year from August 21-25. The foundation provides full paid scholarships for children ages 5-15 to attend who had or have a parent or close relative with cancer. Last year, there were more than 50 children in attendance.  

“We have received wonderful feedback from campers and their parents,” says Buckfire whose sister, Lisa Elconin, M.D., started the camp and serves as its director. “The camp allows children to escape a stressful situation, express themselves and relieve stress through art and also allows them to bond with other children who are experiencing or have experienced similar situations. For the parents, it gives them a break while their children are at camp.”

His wife would surely be delighted with the touching tribute.

“I think that Lori would be thrilled about the camp. She loved children and loved art, and would be so happy that we are helping other families who experienced or are experiencing what we went through,” he says.

Annie VanGelderen, president and CEO of the BBAC, has been touched by the camp that is now in its fourth year and currently accepting applications, where she says children are the focus and it’s all about having a fun experience with art, working with different mediums such as painting, clay and jewelry metals.

She’s also been inspired by Buckfire.

“I have great admiration for Dan who reached out to me several years ago during an extremely difficult time in his life to partner together for a camp in honor of Lori,” says VanGelderen

 “We had the connection with Hayden attending camp here and Lori really believing in art,” she says. “To put the two together and give families who are going through the same stress these opportunities is amazing.”