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Sunday, October 09, 2016

Grand Evening for a Gala

It was a chilly and moist evening in New York City on September 29, perfect for a fall kick-off and a good reason to warm up with friends, colleagues and a celebrity to honor 15 years of Save One Life.
Save One Life was founded in 2001, but my idea to start a nonprofit to help the world’s children with hemophilia who live in poverty had been kicking around for at least two years. We are now up to over 1,500 served over 15 years, and we have great plans to expand our help even further.

It was fitting to hold our celebration in New York; to give credit where it is due, it was a New York mother of a child with hemophilia, Lisa O’Connor, who wrote to me back in 1999, on a piece of yellow-lined paper (yes, people did that at one time!) to suggest we start a Save the Children-like program. I loved the idea, and the letter coincided with a trip to Pakistan, in which I sat in the home of an extremely poor family: two rooms, no kitchen, no plumbing, no electricity, two small children with hemophilia. The father simply wanted extra money each month to send his son to a good school, where he would be protected, and learn English, to get a good job. Then he could buy factor. The cost? $20 a month, he told me. The idea became a plan.

This evening, so many of our sponsors and colleagues came out to share our 15 years. I saw so many long term community friends, some going back 20 years!

Cyclist Barry Haarde
Held at the Manhattan Penthouse, high above the bustling city below, we gathered to have a lovely dinner, distribute awards and honor our volunteers and supporters, and to welcome two very special guests.

First, no surprise, we honored yet again the amazing Barry Haarde, for his fifth cross-country cycling odyssey to raise funds for Save One Life. The 2016 journey took two months this time, and saw Barry traverse the US from west coast to east coast, and then from north to south! I managed to hop off Kilimanjaro in time to fly to Key West, the most southern point in the US, to welcome Barry on Route 1, mile 0. Barry takes it all in stride, but his efforts are Herculean. He has raised awareness as well as over $200,000 for Save One Life over his five trips, and sponsors a child with hemophilia from India.

Laurie Kelley, Usha Parthasarathy, Martha Hopewell
Usha Parthasarathy received our Inspiration Award. Usha is a dear friend and also volunteer and expert advisor on hemophilia in India since Save One Life’s formation in 2001. Usha helped Save One Life to organize and launch its sponsorship program in India. In 2009 Usha joined Save One Life as India program coordinator, assisting with growing and managing our largest country, with 25 program partners and more than 830 current and graduated beneficiaries. She works tirelessly in a completely volunteer role. Usha lost both her father to an intracranial bleed and her baby within two years. She left a career as a national newscaster in India to devote her life to helping those with hemophilia, and became development vice president for the Hemophilia Federation (India). Her second son, Sudharsan, born in 1981, is now a post doctoral researcher in the hematology division of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Not present, but honored, was board member, friend and fellow-mountain climber Eric Hill, COO of Diplomat, who sponsors 31 children, and has organized our mountain climbs to raise awareness and money for Save One Life. His efforts have raised over $150,000 for save One Life and Eric recently has made the first donation to our endowment fund.

Miahi of Romania
After dinner, we were entertained by Mihai, a lovely young man with hemophilia from Romania. He and his mother flew all that way to attend, as our guests. Handsome, slight of build and tall, he was introduced by my long-time friend and mentor Adriana Henderson of North Carolina (Romanian by birth) who has devoted her life to helping the poor and suffering in Romania with hemophilia. She explained how Mihai excelled at playing the piano, despite the limited resources of his family, and frequent bleeds in his hands. Mihai played several beautiful classical pieces, and ended with Chopin's Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2, one of my favorites.

Best of all, Mihai's sponsor, Reid Coleman of North Carolina, attended and was able to meet his beneficiary of many years!

The final presentation of the evening belonged to Tony Fernández, former shortstop for the Toronto Bluejays, and for one year, the New York Yankees. Tony has been a long time friend to the hemophilia community in the Dominican Republic. His Toronto Bluejays teammate and best friend, Damaso García, has a son with hemophilia. When Damaso’s wife Haydée De García Benoit, founder and president of Fundación Apoyo Al Hemofílico (FAHEM), the DR’s national hemophilia organization, asked Tony to attend their first camp in 1999, Tony gladly said yes. The children were thrilled to have a national hero spend the day playing baseball with them. He has since attended three camps, now called Yo sí Puedo! (Yes I Can!) and one of the best hemophilia camps in the world!

FAHEM has since become a Save One Life program partner.

Tony has had a distinguished Major League Baseball career, starting in September 1983. He signed on to six teams, setting a nine-year record for shortstops. He was awarded four consecutive Gold Glove Awards, from 1986 to 1989, and was also named to five All-Star teams. Today Tony is an ordained minister and founder of the Tony Fernández Foundation, which works with underprivileged and troubled children by nurturing and developing them through counseling, education, training, and physical and spiritual activities.

Tony shared how Damaso Jr. felt defeated early in life; his father was a star player, but he could not even play baseball. Tony counseled him and encouraged him to find some other way to participate other than actually playing. The encouragement took hold. Today Damaso is a national sportscaster for the Dominican Republic and the entire nation tunes in to him at 5 pm daily.

Tony reminded the audience that to give is to receive, and that the world needs our help in these troubled times. He urged everyone to pick up the envelop in front of them, and to give. His authority, his devotion to children, made an impact. We raised over $4,500 right after his speech, with 19 more children pledge for sponsorship.
Tony Fernández

The next day our team met at KYNE offices, with David Kyne, president and founder, and Save One Life board member, for a seven hour strategy meeting. The next 15 years will see tremendous growth of Save One Life, and many more children reached, and lives changed.

"If we stay the course, the unthinkable might happen, yes, together we can bring hope to the hopeless, just be faithful to the vision given to you by God and He will find a way to bring it to pass." Tony Fernández, major league ballplayer, minister, founder of The Tony Fernández Foundation

Thanks to Save One Life staff Martha Hopewell and Tricia Sico for organizing the event; and to our sponsors and donors, and all attendees. Please see for more information or to sponsor a child with a bleeding disorder in a developing country.


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