Gift of Life-Los Angeles received a $50,000 donation Friday from the
Joan Wismer Foundation at the Conejo Rotary Club's weekly meeting.
"This is the largest donation we have ever received from a solo
sponsor," said Brenda Small, president of the Gift of Life-Los Angeles
and a member of the Rotary Club. "We are so thankful."
Gift of Life-Los Angeles, one of the 66 worldwide affiliates of Gift
of Life International, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping
save the lives of children with congenital heart disease. Rotary is a
major sponsor within Gift of Life-Los Angeles.
Joan Wismer of the Joan Wismer Foundation made the decision to donate
a large contribution after years of small donations and involvement.
A member of the Sherman Oaks Rotary Club, Wismer slowly became involved
in Gift of Life-Los Angeles through her continued friendship with one
of the nonprofit's board members, Raul Melgart.
"Joan and I go back 11 or 12 years ago to a dialysis clinic I used
to work at. I have always helped her medically, and since, we have become
close friends," Raul Melgart said, presenting the check on behalf
Melgart said through their friendship, Wismer introduced the Rotary Club
to him, as he introduced her to Gift of Life.
"During any of my trips back from El Salvador, I always enjoyed showing
her pictures of all the children. At one time, we had a little boy who
was in need of surgery named Victor that stole Joan's heart," Melgart
He said Wismer was so taken with the child's need for a healthy life
that she donated the $5,000 needed for the surgery.
A few months later, the foundation's board of directors set a budget to
become more involved in Gift of Life International and in doing so became
the organization's first sustainable sponsor.
"With the economy how it is, we have been working this year to develop
sustainable sponsors that will commit to supporting our organization for
the next three years. Thanks to Joan, we now have our first," Small
Small's personal experience with congenital heart disease gave her the
start to becoming involved in helping out.
"My 9-year-old daughter, Delaney, was diagnosed with it when she
was just a week old," Small said. "She had surgery and survived,
which made us so grateful, we wanted to help others who needed it."
Small began the Music for Heart Foundation in 2003 and then merged with
Gift of Life International in 2006.
"Most people don't know that congenital heart disease is the number
one birth defect in the world. One out of 100 children are born with it
in the United States." Small said.
Surgery for the children can cost $2,500 to $5,000, depending on their
condition. Not all children survive the surgery, either.
"In a Third World country like El Salvador, one in eight children
are diagnosed with congenital heart disease, and one in five die every
day from it," Small said.
El Salvador became a country of focus for Small after she hosted Josselyn
Hidalgo of El Salvador and her mother at her house, as Josselyn recovered
from surgery she received from the Children's Hospital in Los Angeles.
Small said with Wismer's contribution the organization not only will
save 10 children, but also will provide training to Salvadoran medical
professionals who will save even more lives.