At Gift of Life-AZ, we feel extremely lucky and a little bittersweet. As Yaakov Smirnoff* wrote: “The human spirit is not measured by the size of the act, but by the size of the heart.”  This sentiment has been born out countless times by the Rotarians, host families, hospitals, doctors, volunteers and generous donors who have participated in our program over the past 35 years.  These volunteers participated one way or another in saving the lives of more than 35 children, 11 of which were from right here in Arizona. We are eternally grateful for all their contributions!

Bitter for us at Gift of Life-AZ, is of a changing outlook on immigrant travel, health care, charitable giving, and hospital availability. These fundamental elements have become more and more difficult to manage and demands that Gift of Life-AZ adapt to these changes.  This is a poignant time for us as we deal with the emotions and memories of all who have helped, and those who have been helped by, Gift of Life-AZ.  There is also the conundrum of balancing those emotions against the realization that we need to grow in a different direction.

Along with the aforementioned “bitter” – now comes the sweet!  You may not be aware that Gift of Life-AZ is part of a greater network of Rotary Gift of Life programs – the largest of which is Gift of Life International (GOLI).  It was announced at the District 5495 Foundation Dinner on November 10, 2018, that Gift of Life-AZ will merge its assets and existing patient list with Gift of Life International. GOLI is the umbrella organization who works with 84 Gift of Life affiliates throughout the world.  This Gift of Life network has provided cared to over 33,300 children from 79 countries over the past 44 years.

What makes GOLI different than Gift of Life-AZ? Primarily, GOLI has successfully transitioned from doing procedures in the US to sending doctors abroad and developing “in country” solutions to care for children in their countries of birth. The end result is two-fold. Not only to do the surgeries occur in the locale of the patient, but GOLI also trains the local medical and surgical teams so that they will one day perform these life-saving interventions independently from GOLI. Additionally, by providing care to children “in country” we increase our ability to impact the lives of more children with heart disease than ever before.  The Gift of Life Global Network now treats over 3,000 children a year – more than any other humanitarian organization focused on helping children in emerging countries with heart disease.

 “Gift of Life International has been proud to partner with GOL–AZ over the years.  We will continue to provide hope to those children who otherwise would have applied to GOL–AZ for care, and if we can help we will.”

_________Rob Raylman, CEO, Gift of Life International

 “For more than 35 years it has been an honor and privilege for us as Rotarians and friends to administer to the needs of deserving children with congenital heart defects. So many lives have been saved and forever changed thanks to the tremendous effort of Rotary and hundreds of compassionate people. Now, we look to our new partner, Gift of Life International, to carry on as we endeavor to build world peace and understanding by repairing one heart at a time!”

___________John Abbs, President, Gift of Life-AZ

Any future requests for help can be processed through use of the Gift of Life International website:    On the home page of the website please fill out the application in the Refer a Child section.

Photos from the District Foundation Dinner and Announcement of Merger

Previous patients and their families who attended the November Foundation event.

Some of the doctors and board members in attendance.

Past and current board members who were present for the merger announcement.



Leave a Reply