In 1996, Elissa Montanti read a letter from a child on the other side of the world that dramatically changed her life.
She was a lab assistant helping a friend organize an event to raise money and collect toys and supplies for children in Bosnia.
At the time, Elissa said she knew very little about the struggles and hardships of these children, especially about how many of them had been affected by landmines.
After the event, she met with the U.S. ambassador to Bosnia to find out what else she could do to help. That’s when he showed her the letter that would change the direction of her life.
It was from an 11-year-old boy who was begging the ambassador to help him get new arms and legs.
Elissa says she didn’t know how she was going to help but she just knew that she had to.
Within 24 hours, she had recruited assistance from airlines, doctors and donors, and within six weeks, the boy and his mother were on a plane to America.
By helping that first child, Elissa knew she had to and could do more. She started the Global Medical Relief Fund, and today, its mission is to help children affected by war and natural disasters, mostly with limb loss and reconstructive surgery.
From day 1, she says Shriners Hospital has been a lifeline for the charity. They provide all the prosthetics, surgery and rehab at no cost. And until the children are 21 (and stop growing), they’re brought back every year or every other year for refittings.
To date, GMRF had helped 137 children and the list of others to help is long.
Elissa says a recent profile of the group on CBS’ “60 Minutes” has brought them some much-needed attention and support.
She explains how you can help change the life of a child forever.
Click here to visit GMRF’s website and see pictures of the children and to make a donation.