Why was Elissa Montanti selected as the CNN’s Hero?
CNN’s Hero Elissa Montanti had founded the Global Medical Relief Fund (GMRF), the non-profit organization, two decades ago. Her team comprising of an airline, hospital and prosthetic company provides free services to children worldwide. Some of these children have lost one or more limbs due to birth defects. Meanwhile, other children have lost one or more limbs, eyes and got severely burned because of war and/or natural calamities. These children get follow-ups treatments until they turn 21 years. Elissa Montanti’s goal is to make these children independent adults who would contribute to the society.
Elissa Montanti had encountered the loss of her mother, grandmother and childhood sweetheart by 1994. In addition, to her personal grievances, she suffered from severe anxiety leading to constant panic attacks. Yet, Elissa bravely decided to dedicate her life for others who are less fortunate.
In 1997, Elissa joined her friend in fundraising for the children of Bosnia. Together, they collected toys and school supplies for them. There Elissa Montanti met with the Bosnia’s ambassador to the United Nations and read Kenan’s letter. At that time, Kenan was a little boy who had lost three limbs to a landmine.
Immediately, within 24 hours, Elissa arranged for an airline, hospital and prosthetic company. After two months, Kenan and his mother reached New York City. They shared Elissa Montanti’s condominium for 4 months. Meanwhile, Kenan received free prosthetics and rehabilitation and soon started getting physically well. Yet, Kenan suffered from nightmares. He used to awake to his screaming and sweating in the middle of the night. Already Elissa Montanti had undergone a similar experience in her life. Hence, she managed to help Kenan cope and overcome his fear. This process also helped in healing Elissa. She was so motivated that she returned to Bosnia to help other misfortunate children. The move led to the establishment of the Global Medical Relief Fund (GMRF), a non-profit organization. This organization supported over 300 children from forty-six countries (1998) that had no resources.
How does the Global Medical Relief Fund work?
The Global Medical Relief Fund organization arranges for appropriate visas for the affected child and mother. Thereafter, the child and mother reach New York City flying into JFK airport where they are met. They are provided with free board and lodging at the home called “The Dare Dream”. This home is only six houses away from Elissa Montanti’s own home. Elissa believes in working for 24×7 and not 9 am to 5 pm. At the Dare Dream home, every child has to face challenges in life. There, they learn to live with others from all over the world. They laugh, play, learn and most importantly love one another.
Details of the Global Medical Relief Fund (GMRF)
Global Medical Relief Fund (GMRF) organization treats children with lost limbs, eyes, and severely burned. This organization runs entirely on private donations and grants. It has brought over 150 children to the USA from across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. All children were provided with US visas for free medical treatment.
The Global Medical Relief Fund (GMRF) organization provides free medical treatment such as surgery, prosthetics and rehabilitation. The partners include the Shriners Hospitals for Children (Erie, Boston and Philadelphia). Also, Presbyterian Hospital (Columbia), Jewish Medical Centre (Long Island), Plastic Surgery Group (Long Island), Ocular Prosthetics Inc and Winthrop-University Hospital.
Written By: Hetal Kabra