Sometimes life’s gifts come to you in unexpected forms. I was given a gift of inspiration and humility when I witnessed a group of disabled children cross the finish line of the Jarden Westchester Triathlon.
By Annette McLoughlin
Sometimes life’s gifts come to you in unexpected forms. I was given a gift of inspiration and humility when I witnessed a group of disabled children cross the finish line of the Jarden Westchester Triathlon. None of them had a full set of arms, legs, and/or working eyes. And they were smiling. They were brimming with hope, despite their handicaps and because of the efforts of a small, non-profit organization called Global Medical Relief Fund (GMRF).
GMRF, a local grass-roots organization run out of Staten Island, is dedicated to helping children around the world who have been extreme victims of war or natural disaster and who otherwise would have no access to the kind of rehabilitative medical treatment that returns them to a path of productive and happy independence. Typically, the children involved have lost limbs, their sight and/or have been severely burned. GMRF coordinates and finances the lengthy and complicated process of transportation, surgery, prosthetics, and physical therapy, all of which can take several months. The organization works primarily with the Shriners facility in Philadelphia and North Shore LIJ, and, with the help of a number of surgeons and medical specialists outside of those facilities who volunteer their time.
Some of the children who are currently in treatment through GMRF include an Iraqi child named Waad, who is here because he lost an arm and a leg while playing a game of kick the can (the can held a bomb;) and Achmed, also from Iraq, who lost his sight and one arm as the result of an explosion; Sarah, a victim of the earthquake in Haiti; and Ngawang, a young man from Tibet who was electrocuted while living in a refugee camp.
Ngawang was severely burned and badly bleeding when he was taken to the nearest hospital, eight hours away. He lost both arms. A director at Ngawang’s school heard about GMRF through a segment on “60 Minutes.” Since being here, he has undergone three surgeries and intensive rehab and has received two electric arms.
Rye’s connection with GMRF began several years ago at a Resurrection School carnival at which local families agreed to house some of the children who were under GMRF care. Relationships were fostered and our community began to make a monumental difference in the lives of the youngest and perhaps most pitiful victims of war and nature’s wrath.
The Rye group — which consisted of adults and children as well as one of the GMRF children — competed in the Jarden Triathlon to raise funds and awareness. Ngawang, the young man from Tibet, competed in a relay of the event with three Rye High School students: Patrick Curran who did the bike portion, Dillon Kelly who swam, and Jack O’Brien who ran alongside Ngawang.
Several local children participated the day before, in the Kids’ Triathlon, on behalf of GMRF: Jane Curran, Sharon Doyle, Audrey Labovitz, Reece Wolfson, and Emily Wolfson.
Other Rye residents who competed to raise money for GMRF include Ellie Kelly, Maria Curran, Tom Ott, Kirstin Bucci, Shelly Wolfson, Ted Tutun, Jeff O’Brien, and Jake Dolce. Behind the scenes, Sue O’Brien, Allison Chader, and Jennifer Griffiths assisted Maria Curran with organizing and fundraising efforts.
Following the race, the Rye children who were part of team GMRF celebrated with Ngawang and his group. There were high fives, fist pumps, and a lot of hugs. And for the second time that morning, I was a witness to an inspirational sight: our children helping the children of GMRF.
If you’re interested in contributing, the fundraiser is open through the month of October. Visit www.giveforward.com/ fundraiser/c9r2/got-hope.
For more information about GMRF, go to www.gmrfchildren .org.