Heart to Heart International celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a gala in Overland Park, Kansas, on April 14, 2018. More than 500 guests attended the event, which was presided over by honorary chairs the Honorable Peggy Dunn, mayor of Leawood, and Terry Dunn. Lenexa Mayor Michael Boehm and Olathe Mayor Mike Copeland were also in attendance as were representatives of HHI corporate partners and the governor of Kansas, Jeff Colyer.
Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer with Leawood Mayor Peggy Dunn and Terry Dunn.
The Founders’ Reception served as a chance for guests from around the country and world to connect. HRH Fuajiawung of Fotobong, Cameroon, presented Heart to Heart International with a hand-carved wooden mask in recognition of the work HHI and BD have done for health care in Fotobong.
Before dinner was served, guests were given a “passport” to take with them on a tour through the different divisions of Heart to Heart International, including volunteerism, programs, product distribution, the mobile medical unit, and a PowrServ assembly station. At the assembly station, guests could build hygiene kits, which will be ready to send to victims of disasters as soon as the next disaster strikes.
Guests assembling hygiene kits in preparation for disaster response.
The formal presentation in the ballroom began after dinner concluded and included a look back at all that Heart to Heart International has accomplished over the past 25 years, highlighting its many disaster responses and aid shipments around the world. Photographs from the Joplin tornado, Typhoon Haiyan, the Haiti earthquake, the four hurricanes of 2017, and many more, created a visual impact that set the tone for the entire evening.
The first award to be presented was the Power of One Award, given to Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of Africa CDC, for his work in with HHI in Fotobong, Cameroon. The Power of One Award is given to an individual who exemplifies compassion toward the underserved and victims of crisis or disaster by significantly supporting the Heart to Heart International mission to expand access to humanitarian health care for those in need.
Dr. Nkengasong was born in Fotobong, Cameroon, but because of the region’s high rates of childhood death from trypanasomiasis (sleeping sickness), he was sent away as a child. He knew he wanted to improve the health of the people in Fotobong, so in 2016, Nkengasong, HHI and Becton Dickinson (BD) began developing a plan for improving health care in the country. This collaboration resulted in an ongoing volunteer service program to improve the Fotobong hospital with construction projects, training, staffing and sustainability programs. Learn more about Dr.Nkengasong, here.
Dr. Nkengasong was presented with his award by HHI board members Carla Duryee and Jon North.
The next award was the Heart for Humanity Award, which was presented to the JDC for the myriad ways it supports HHI and its work around the globe. JDC and Heart to Heart International’s relationship began through an introduction from Deborah Granoff and Patricia Uhlmann of the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. In response to the catastrophic disaster in Haiti, JDC provided funds for critically needed vehicles used by HHI to provide emergency medical care to victims, as well as funding to help build a school in Fondwa, Haiti. Since that initial collaboration, JDC has been an important supporter of many of Heart to Heart International’s missions, including the Ebola response in Liberia, hurricane Matthew in 2016 and hurricane Irma in 2017.
In addition, JDC and JDC Entwine, its young adult engagement platform, have collaborated with PowerServ and a number of local and national Jewish groups to assemble hygiene kits for people impacted by crisis and disaster. HHI has distributed these kits to people around the world, from Syrian refugees in Turkey to U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico. Learn more about the JDC, here.
Michelle Rosen accepted the award on behalf of the JDC. Rosen is a member of the Executive Committee for JDC and Past Chair of the JDC GRID (Disaster Relief, Recovery, and Development Programs) Committee. She was presented the award by board member Carla Duryee and HHI Chief Operating Officer Kim Carroll.
“This award from Heart to Heart to the JDC…is not only profoundly appreciated, it also illustrates a hallmark of our mandate: working in and with communities, our own communities and others,” Rosen said. “We can’t do it alone. There’s just too much to do, both in our immediate disaster response and the slower recovery work that follows. … We rely on and need partners like you, from Haiti to Nepal to the Philippines, and most recently the Caribbean. We stand alongside of you to support the most vulnerable. And you, Heart to Heart, continue to be the most proficient, dedicated and compatible partner.”
After a video presentation that recalled the beginnings of HHI from the point of view of the founders (view video here), Barbi Moore, first employee of HHI, presented an award to the four founders: Dr. Gary Morsch, David Lundgren, Jim Kerr and Ray Mattix. The founders then, in turn, presented a special award to Moore.
Morsch spoke to the assembled guests, inspired by the work HHI has done and optimistic about the direction HHI is heading.
“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break, and all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go, love intentionally, love extravagantly. Love unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you,” Morsch said. “So as we pass the torch on 25 years, as we look to the past, we look to a great future for the next 25 years.”
The final speech of the evening was given by HHI Chief Executive Officer Jim Mitchum. Mitchum spoke in particular of the enormous impact made by the HHI – Haiti team both in Haiti and in treating patients in Puerto Rico. Mitchum asked the HHI – Haiti leadership team to stand and be acknowledged for their disaster response efforts.
“When Maria struck Puerto Rico last September, Heart to Heart responded not only with American volunteers but a medical team from Haiti as well. Through two and a half months of work in Puerto Rico, our Haitian medical team, all Spanish speaking, saw 2,600 patients and brought hope to people living in profoundly desperate conditions,” Mitchum said.
The evening ended with a plea from Mitchum to partner with Heart to Heart International as it helps people who have experienced loss and tragedy. People for whom the world has turned upside down. People who are desperate for someone to care about them and their families. Heart to Heart International has helped bring hope to people like this for 25 years and will continue providing hope for the next 25 years and beyond.
A SPECIAL thank you to BD – Presenting Partner and to Sanofi Foundation for North America for Sponsoring the Founders’ Reception.
We would also like to thank our partners: AbbVie, Bank of Blue Valley, Docs Who Care, Dr. Gary Morsch, GEHA, Hallmark, Lathrop Gage, Agenda USA, A.L. Huber, Carla Duryee Consulting, Henry Schein, Jadh J. Kerr LLC, Michael and Marlys Haverty Foundation, Rotary, and Wells Fargo Advisors.
Thank you to ALL the donors and supporters of Heart to Heart International throughout the past 25 years.