The shock. The horror. The unspeakable grief. Nobody should have to go through it.
Losing a child is every parent’s very worst nightmare. When Lauren Winkler of Irvine perished in a private plane crash at Santa Monica Airport on September 29, it was even harder for her parents, Gary and Carol. They had to watch it over and over on the news every night, wait for positive identification through dental records and suffer additional anguish over not being able to lay their daughter’s body to rest for an entire week.
Somehow, the Winklers have emerged from their sorrow determined to carry on in Lauren’s memory what she was so inspired to do in her life. Lauren, a graduate of Foothill High School and UCLA, a certified yoga instructor who worked in the entertainment industry and someone who traveled to 27 countries in her short life, lived in Israel for more than three years. There, she was introduced to a very special charity, Save A Child’s Heart (SACH).
SACH is an Israeli-based international humanitarian project, whose mission is to improve the quality of pediatric cardiac care for children from developing countries who suffer from heart disease and to create centers of competence in these countries. SACH is totally dedicated to the idea that every child deserves the best medical treatment available, regardless of the child’s nationality, religion, color, gender or financial situation.
Syrian children often have to be flown to Israel by way of Turkey, because Syria does not allow direct flights to Israel. Palestinian children are transported by ambulance to the Israeli hospital in spite of missile strikes in the area near Gaza. Palestinian doctors are being trained along with doctors from other parts of the world.
SACH is motivated by the age-old Jewish tradition of Tikkun Olam – repairing the world. By mending the hearts of children, regardless of their origin, SACH is contributing to a better and more peaceful future for all of our children, according to its website. The organization serves children from 45 countries, with every possible heart ailment, some congenital and some as a result of war. Some of them come from nations whose governments remain in a state of war with Israel and who reject the notion of a Jewish state. About half of the children are from the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Morocco; more than 30 percent are from Africa; and the others are from Asia, Eastern Europe and the Americas.
The SACH mission is achieved in several ways. The organization provides life-saving cardiac surgery and other life saving procedures for children from developing countries at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel. It offers a full outreach training program for the medical personnel from these countries in Israel, conducts leading surgical and teaching missions to partner countries in the developing world and holds pre-operative and follow-up cardiology clinics in Israel and abroad. SACH often sends its medical team to the respective country to train that country’s doctors and staff on heart treatments.
In 2011 Lauren Winkler and about 15 others, climbed Mt Kilimanjaro to raise money for SACH. She succeeded in the climb and reached her goal in raising $10K. She saved a child’s life. She subsequently worked for the charity for more than a year.
For $10K, SACH flies in the child and parent from all four corners of the world. The organization provides approximately 90 days of pre- and post-operative care and, of course, an operation on the child’s heart. The annual number of children treated by SACH has increased exponentially from 48 cases in 1996 to 298 in 2012.
SACH is a small charity that is hardly known. Its budget is about $3 million, and it has only a handful of paid staffers. While everyone else is a volunteer, the organization produces extraordinary results. In the U.S., $10K would not even pay for a day in the hospital, but SACH gets the job done.
“We are trying to add meaning and purpose to our horrible family tragedy,” Gary Winkler said. “We are asking all who we know to investigate this charity further. Check out the website, www.saveachildsheart.org.”
He concluded, “Let’s spread the word everywhere, like a chain letter, and help these desperate children. By doing this, we can change the world one person, one family at a time. It is a win/win/win situation: helping the child and family, elevating each of us and raising the value of Lauren’s life. My prayer is that no one should have to live through what we have lived through.”
About Save A Child’s Heart (SACH)
This creation of Dr. Amram Cohen, evolved from Cohen’s experiences as a doctor serving with the U.S. Armed Forces in Korea in 1988, where he joined a program that helped poor local children with heart disease. The experience introduced him to a network of doctors doing similar work in developing countries, inspiring him to start his own program in 1992. Today SACH is based at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel, near Tel Aviv.