In the three years since it was established, Sargent College’s community service club Rotaract has done its share of good deeds. Members have volunteered to work at soup kitchens and thrift shops, have crocheted scarves and mittens for the homeless, and have written dozens of letters to soldiers fighting in Iraq. Now they are hoping to take their community service to the next level, by giving the gift of life.
The club has teamed with the Gift of Life International program to sponsor lifesaving surgery for a child with a congenital heart defect known as blue baby syndrome, so named because the skin of such babies can develop a bluish tint. The condition, which results in decreased life expectancy or death, is caused by a defect in one or more structures of the heart or blood vessels. Symptoms are poor weight gain and recurrent lung infections. Gift of Life International has helped get free medical care for thousands of children with congenital heart defects who lack access to high-quality care in their home countries. Rotaract hopes to raise $10,000 by next December to cover all the costs associated with the surgery, including travel to Boston and housing and living expenses while the child and his or her parents are here. A Boston hospital would donate the procedure, which costs approximately $5,000.
Rotaract Club president Nehal Patel (SAR’07) has done this before. While in high school, she helped raise money for heart surgery for three children through the Gift of Life International program. “I experienced how rewarding it is because these children don’t deserve what they are going through and we have the opportunity to help,” says Patel. “The surgery is very expensive and such a big ordeal for the child, but in our country it is relatively easy and routine. It’s so great that with a little effort we can do something that means so much to the children and their families.”
Rotaract Club founder and faculty advisor Karen Jacobs, a SAR clinical professor of occupational therapy and rehabilitation counseling, was on board the moment she heard Patel’s idea. “It really resonates with me to help children who are from countries where medical facilities are not available to help them with these life-threatening congenital heart disorders,” she says. “The Gift of Life program provides the method for us to enhance a child’s life in a way that really is not possible for him or her in the context of the child’s home environment. It seemed like a really doable project for us.”
The club has scheduled three fundraisers for February: a bake sale, a Valentine’s Day rose sale, and a film screening. Once Rotaract has raised the $10,000, it will be assigned a child to sponsor. The child’s medical records will be sent to a hospital in Boston, most likely Children’s Hospital or Mass General Hospital, to see which facility can best take care of the patient’s needs. “People die from these heart diseases pretty fast, so it is very important for us to raise the money as quickly as possible,” Jacobs says.
For information on how to donate to enable a child to have heart surgery, call 516-504-0830 or click here.
The bake sale will be held February 7 to 9 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Sargent College lobby.
The rose sale for Valentine’s Day will be held February 13 and 14 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the GSU Link. Long-stem red roses and original Chinese paper cuttings made by workers in China with severe hand injuries will be for sale.
The film screening is scheduled for February 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the Howard Thurman Center. Rotaract will show the film Something the Lord Made, a dramatization of an African-American heart surgeon who saved the life of a blue baby. Ted Shaughnessy, president of Gift of Life New England, will lead a discussion following the screening.