Heart to Heart International welcomes president of Rotary International

(November 4, 2019) –

On Friday, Heart to Heart International welcomed Mark Maloney, President of Rotary International and his wife Gay to our headquarters in Lenexa, Kansas. We were honored to have the opportunity to give the Maloneys a tour, describe the work HHI does around the world, and detail the instrumental role Rotary played not only in the creation of the organization, but how its members still contribute to this day.

From left: Rick Randolph, Randy Stabenow, Larry Lunsford, Kim Carroll, Gay and Mark Maloney, Terry Lynch, Jim Mitchum, Pat O’Donnell, Gary Morsch.

Rotary International President Mark Maloney presented HHI founder Gary Morsch with the “Connecting the World” pin in recognition of his dedication and work to helping people around the globe.

Heart to Heart International has a long history of working with Rotary clubs to help people in need. In fact, the very inception of Heart to Heart International is based in the works of Rotarians.

Here’s the story:

In 1992, after an investigative trip to Russia, Dr. Gary Morsch and his fellow Rotarians learned the hospital pharmacies were empty, and doctors had no way to provide patients with life-saving medicines. Consequently, when Dr. Morsch returned to the U.S., he challenged his local Rotary Club in Olathe, Kansas, to help provide medicines and medical supplies to hospitals around Moscow. Rotarians jumped into action and the project began to snowball. Rotary members Dr. Gary Morsch, Ray Mattix, Jim Kerr and Dave Lundgren developed a plan to deliver desperately needed medications and medical supplies to distribute to hospitals and pharmacies throughout Moscow.

This project needed a name – Heart to Heart International, since the airlift was from the heart of America and going to the heart of Russia (Moscow). A plane was next on the agenda to procure. And with the help of Congresswoman Jan Meyers and Bob Dole, they secured a C5 Galaxy aircraft, the biggest aircraft in the world.

All Olathe Rotarians were busy getting donations for the effort. With a matching grant from Kansas Rotary district 5710, and donations and matching grant from the Kansas City Missouri Rotary district, Olathe Rotarians had gathered $50,000 desperately needed to make the effort possible.

In May 1992, the Heart to Heart International C5 Cargo plane landed in Moscow with 75 tons of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, bringing aid to thousands of people in need.

Though it was originally thought to be a one-time project, the airlift turned out to be just the beginning of almost 30 years of providing aid to people in need through Heart to Heart International.

“From the initial idea of sending a mobile medical unit that transformed into actually sending a C5 Cargo plane carrying 75 tons of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies exemplifies our Rotary Motto, SERVICE ABOVE SELF. This is an effort that will always be held dear in the hearts of those Rotarians that helped make it happen, as well as all Olathe Rotarians today.”

– “The Rotary Wheel” June 2018, Olathe Rotary
May 1992 – delivering aid to Moscow, Russia. The beginning of Heart to Heart International.

Thank you to everyone who came out on Friday: Mark and Gay Maloney, Gary Morsch and Pat O’Donnell from Olathe Rotary, and Terry Lynch, President of Olathe Rotary; Rick Randolph and Kevin Tubbesing from the Ambassadors Rotary Club; Larry Lunsford and Jim Mitchum from Rotary Club of Kansas City Plaza, and HHI CEO Kim Carroll and HHI COO Randy Stabenow.

Do you have a story of how Rotary and Heart to Heart International have worked together? We would love to hear them. Send any stories to amy.lafferty@hearttoheart.org.