Every big idea has a small beginning. Gift of Life has been no exception.

In 1974, Rotary District 7250 brought a little 5-year old named Grace Agwaru on an intercontinental voyage from Uganda to New York. Grace suffered from a hole between the two lower chambers of her young but strong heart. On November 15, 1974 surgeons at Saint Francis Hospital in Roslyn, New York successfully operated on little Grace. A big idea was born that day. The Gift of Life now includes Rotarians from all over the world, with independent chapters in countries as far away as Korea and India.

Today, the Gift of Life is a worldwide Rotary International Service Program responsible for approximately 5000 heart surgeries for children from over 30 countries. The Gift of Life has gone global. Every good idea grows exponentially. In 2001, PDG of District 7250 Eileen Gentlecore had a simple conversation with a friend of hers and related the altruistic vision of the Gift of Life. Her friend, Past District Governor Ravishankar Bhooplapur, with the assistance of Past RI Director Sushil Gupta – Trustee of Rotary Foundation , Dr. Rajan Deshpande and many other devoted Rotarians, AC Peter, PDG Rajendra Rai, Rtn OP Khanna, DGE Kamlesh Raheja, took up the challenge to provide critical heart surgeries for the children of India.

PDG Ravishankar Bhooplapur still serves as Honorary Chairman of Gift of Life, India today. Is it not amazing what can come of a conversation? The sole purpose of the Gift of Life, India is to secure life saving heart surgery for children in desperate need regardless of race, creed, color or country of origin. The Gift of Life, India is a not-for-profit, tax-exempt corporation with no administrative costs. All of our team members work voluntarily; all of the monies are generously donated by caring donors and through the numerous matching grants disbursed by the Rotary Foundation.

Gift of Life program in New York has the unique distinction of bringing children from all over the world to the New York Metro Area and providing free heart Surgeries to them. These children are housed in Ronald McDonald house which is specifically given to us for this purpose. Rotarians have significantly contributed to build the Ronald McDonald house and continue to give financial support on the local level in exchange our children are accommodated pre & post-operative their surgeries. The Gift of Life still grows. We reach more children in more countries than ever before. We would like to reach more. There is no limit to this idea as long as we remain committed to saving children’s lives.


To further the cause of world peace and understanding by facilitating free medical services to children suffering from heart disease regardless of race, creed, sex or national origin and who otherwise lack access to such services.

“A Crusade of the Heart”

The Gift of Life is a crusade of the heart, touching children in peril. An idea born in 1975 to a group of Rotarians from Manhasset, Long Island, NY, is today a global effort. We reach out to many children, who would otherwise die, and heal their failing hearts with the miracle of cardiac surgery. Our outreach spans the world, nurtured by compassion for young victims we alone can cure. Each child whose future we restore is a tribute to humanity and love, helping build bridges of friendship and peace among people everywhere.


The lives of more than 10,000 children from countries throughout the world have been saved through the miracle of open-heart surgery, in medical centers throughout the U.S. and in participating Gift of Life hospitals in Russia, Israel, Malaysia, China, Ukraine, India, Dominican Republic and the Philippines. Dedicated surgeons and nurses donate their skill to the cause. American families assist Rotarians as hosts and interpreters, bringing warmth and comfort to children and their escorts.

Board of Directors and Officers

Gift of Life is a dynamic program of Rotarians of Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau in partnership with the Rotary members and physicians worldwide who evaluate children for treatment in our country. Foreign doctors may also receive technical training on these shores and return to help children in their own lands. We have since opened pathways to Korea, Poland, the Russian Republics, China, Caribbean Nations and to places as distant as Mongolia, medically screening many thousands of children for lifesaving surgery.

The spirit of the Gift of Life ignores borders. Medically advanced countries are being encouraged to do as we do – to open their own hospital doors to imperiled youngsters from developing nations. With the Gift of Life as an international model, cardiac medicine will extend its power to save many who were unreachable before. The Gift of Life has also become more of a public presence through our fund raising program Save-A-Child. In addition we hold four annual fundraisers: the Crusade of the Heart Kick-Off Dinner and black tie Gala, the Agnes T. Funk Kids for Kids Memorial 5K Walk, and our new skydiving event Jump for Life.

Partnering Hospitals

The following hospitals support the Gift of Life program:

● Loma Linda University Medical Center, Loma Linda, California

● Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center Valhalla, New York

● St. Francis Hospital, The Heart Center Roslyn, New York

● The Children’s Hospital at Montefiiore Medical Center Bronx, New York

● The Hospital for Sick Children Toronto, Canada

● The Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York New Hyde Park, New York

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