Gift of Life NEO–The Beginning

 In 2003, Past District 6630 Governor, Jim Frame, received a call from Allen Feehan of Gift of Life in New Jersey (Rotary District 7470) asking if Jim could help a child who needed open heart surgery. 

      Their former heart surgeon, Dr. Hani Hennein, had recently moved to University Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio.  Dr. Hennein was ready to perform the surgery but they needed help in hosting the child. Jim, as he always does, answered, “Yes, and I’ll try my best.”  And  with that, Jim Frame soon became chairman of what evolved into Gift of Life Northeast Ohio (Gol NEO).  Ken Fogle, of the Chagrin Valley Rotary Club, joined Jim as co-chair.


      For the first 5 years, Rotary District 6630 GoL NEO ran on a shoestring.  There were little to no funds let alone a budget, so GoL NEO would react and support each child as they were identified.  Funds were raised as needed from individual Rotary Clubs within Rotary District 6630.For each child, $5,000 needed to be raised to cover the “token” payment to University Hospitals.  An additional $500-1,000 was also needed for incidental expenses related to family costs at Ronald McDonald House.

      In 2008, the Chagrin Valley Rotary Club (CVRC) conducted a major fundraiser which, combined with an extraordinary “Cy Pres” Award from a class action lawsuit, allowed GoL NEO to enter a new level of providing life-saving heart surgery to children in the developing world. GoL NEO began a partnership with Dr. Hani Hennein’s Pedi-Heart World (PHW) and Dr. Bill Novick’s International Children’s Heart Foundation (ICHF) to redirect towards a more sustainable future. 

      Although extremely important, saving one child at a time does not create sustainability.  GoL NEO moved towards supporting outbound medical training trips of teaching experts.  These medical teams not only can serve more children in a 2-week trip at half the cost per child than if done in the U.S., but they can begin to teach the necessary surgical techniques to surgeons in foreign countries.  Developing local skills and equipping local teaching hospitals is GoL NEO’s future for sustainable children’s heart service.

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