James LaManta and Robbie Donno gave a presentation about the Rotary District 7255 Gift of Life Program at our regular meeting on Wednesday, December 13th.
Kelly Albanese-Scherer, our club representative for the Rotary District 7255 Gift of Life Program, arranged for  guest speakers, James LaManta, Chairman of the Rotary District 7255 Gift of Life Program, and Robbie Donno, Co-Founder and Director of Gift of Life International.
 
Gift of Life is a world reknowned Rotary program that provides life-saving heart surgery for needy children from around the world. 
 
The Gift of Life Program has treated over 30,000 children during its 42-year history. It transforms the lives of children with heart disease and their families by coordinating the collaboration of 81 autonomous Gift of Life programs in 79 countries across 5 continents with like-minded partner charities, hospitals, healthcare professionals, Rotarians and other volunteers to develop sustainable pediatric cardiac surgery, catheterization and aftercare programs in emerging countries.
 
James described how the organization has evolved over the past four decades into a global network, explaining that the traditional model for providing care to children with heart disease from emerging countries was to bring one child at a time to the United States for treatment. Although this remains an important part of the Gift of Life Program, they now bring hope and treatment to children with heart disease in their native countries throughout the world where access to treatment is otherwise unavailable. Overseas missions, partially funded through grants, are generally a more cost-effective approach to helping bring life saving services to children in need.
 
James proclaimed that we can be proud of the fact that our district, Rotary District 7255, is the third largest contributor to the Gift of Life Program, and that we currently have a very active and effective program. He gave examples of two children from Kosovo who are now being treated by doctors and staff at St. Francis Hospital.
 
James relayed a sincere passion for the work of the Gift of Life Program and for his responsibilities as District Chairman, concluding with a plea to Rotary clubs and other like-minded organizations for continued funding of the program. Robbie added a personalized and emotional expression of the importance and value of this life-saving program, and of the life-changing gratification derived from being a part of it.
 
James and Robbie are shown above with Kelly Albanese-Scherer and Babylon Rotary President Frank Seibert.