I have a confession to make; I’m in love. The object of my affection, a charity by the name of HeartGift, helps children with congenital heart defects receive the care that they need. By raising money and funding a child’s transportation, surgical, and rehabilitation costs, sponsors at HeartGift ensure that kids have a second chance at life.
It first came into my life when I interviewed my friend Andrew Arraj ’16 about his successful campaign last year. Hearing about Andrew’s dedication and commitment to such a rewarding cause inspired me to join the club as a partner for this year. Medical bills for such intensive open heart surgery can be high, a total of $25,000 necessary for each individual child receiving treatment. The fruits of our hard work came when, after months of fundraising, I was able to get together enough money to sponsor a child myself! Her name is Michel, and she’s a 3 ½ year old girl from Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
At around 11 pm Friday night, after flying from Bolivia to Miami and Miami to Dallas, I finally got to meet Michel and her mom. Our welcome committee of patient coordinator Suzette Bruening, fellow Jesuit volunteer Michael Schmidt ’16, and representatives from the host family and church held up signs and balloons, thrilled beyond belief to meet this amazing girl. The hours of travel time had made poor Michel tired, and interpreter Gisela Bolivar pushed her stroller as she slumped over, fast asleep. With my years of elementary Spanish, I tried to communicate with her mother, and when she found out I helped sponsor her daughter’s surgery an outburst of “muchas gracias” overwhelmed me with gratitude. The opportunity to meet someone whose life I had directly impacted was an incredible experience, and I cannot wait to get to know Michele once she’s fully recovered post-surgery!
I had the privilege of raising money to help Michel receive the surgery she desperately needs, but now I need help from the Jesuit community to ensure that her stay is as successful as possible. There’s a lot of different ways you can get involved with HeartGift; so no matter which way you choose to get involved, I thank you in advance for supporting such a worthy cause!
- Food donations: Since Michel, her mother, and a translator will be staying with a host family for several weeks, one of the most rewarding experiences is cooking and delivering a meal. Instead of just donating detergent or dropping off school supplies, getting to meet people from a country 6,000 miles away and interact with a different culture is an opportunity that’s not always available. Helping with the meals process comes with five service hours, and if you make a meal with a friend at Jesuit both people will receive the five hours!
- Excursions: After her surgery, Michel will spend several weeks in town rehabilitating to make sure her heart is ready for her flight back home and the rest of her new life. One of the unique opportunities we have as a school is the chance to go on a field trip with her! Through the generous donations of many sponsors to Dallas’ HeartGift chapter, there are many different museums, parks, zoos, or other places available around the city. For four community service hours, a group of us will leave for an after school trip including a stop at one of these tourist destinations and dinner before bringing Michel back to her host home.
- Polo Match: Charities like HeartGift always are seeking out new and innovative ways to fundraise and sponsor more children, and on June 4th the charity will be hosting a polo match a Jesuit alumnus will actually be playing in! The gates open at 5pm, and the event includes the match, dinner, and entertainment by country artist Kaleb McIntire. Volunteers who arrive early and help set up will receive free admission to the event and service hours, and Michele will also be there to spend quality time with.
- Sending Off: Finally, although there are so many different ways to interact with Michel, she has to return home in mid-June to enjoy her new life thanks to HeartGift. Even though it is over the summer break, joining us at the airport to wish her and her family off is a great way to end this chapter of her life. This opportunity, like the field trip outings, is worth four service hours, and it never hurts to bring a creative sign with you!
If you are interested in any of these opportunities, please email Mr. Perry firstname.lastname@example.org, Andrew email@example.com or me firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!