At any given time there are an estimated 55 million children in the world in need of cardiac care. While diagnosis and care of heart anomalies are routine here in the United States, the simple fact is that it is unavailable or inaccessible to children in developing countries.
That’s why a Uganda Rotary Club reached out to their peers in the Manhasset (Long Island, NY) Rotary Club in 1974, seeking assistance in saving the life of a child who required cardiac care not available in her home country. Rotarians do what Rotarians always do, step up to the plate and find a way to get things done. The result was that 5-year old Grace Agwaaru was flown to NY, received life-saving surgery, and the concept of Gift of Life (GOL) was born.
Today, more than 17,000 children later, Gift Of Life is a global initiative of Rotary International that seeks to make cardiac care available to all children. While children continue to be flown into the U.S. for their care, Gift of Life has increasingly been providing healthcare professionals in other countries with the training necessary to eventually perform the surgeries on their own children in their own country.
Rotary District 7230, encompassing metro-NY and Bermuda, became involved with GOL when Eastchester Rotarian Dan Nalven began working with colleagues at an upstate NY program in 1993. His Club formed a committee to explore how they could best contribute to the effort, and before long the District formalized a committee to help expedite care through local hospitals with funding provided by Clubs.
The District coordinates the transfer of medical records to our local partner hospitals (Montefiore Children’s Hospital in the Bronx or Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla — link to Our Hospitals page) to determine which children have the best chance at a long and healthy life after surgery. These hospitals donate some or all of the medical care costs, and participating Clubs raise the funds to fly the children and a parent or guardian to NY. Rotarians host the child and parent or guardian, sometimes for as long as several months, and are responsible for coordinating all travel and appointments while the child is here in NY. Today, 18 years after the Eastchester Club began their efforts locally, more than 450 children from 12 countries have had their lives changed forever through the hard work and dedicated efforts of more than 20 District 7230 Rotary Clubs.
Thank you for your interest and your support!
Rotary District 7230 Gift of Life, Inc.