Hellenic Heart for Kids is a non-profit organization dedicated to fundraising for children located in Greece or Cyprus whose medical needs can only be addressed within the United States. The organization is run by a group of professionals with Greek or Cypriot heritage who feel compelled to provide the possibility of a longer, healthier life to at least one-child-a-year from their homelands.
Every year, the members of board will research and select a candidate, either from Greece or Cyprus, under the age of 18 who requires a life-saving or life-altering procedure.
As the member of the board of directors, Olga Someras, told The National Herald: “Any donation made on the website will be given 100% for the financing of a child and will not be used to cover other expenses related to the organization, nor will it receive any from members' salary. The website at which people can donate is: hellenicheartforkids.org/donate or they can do it by a check in the address we provide in our website.”
The first candidate is Alexandros Kallergis, a 3 years old boy from Athens. He was born at just 28 weeks, one of two twin boys, born prematurely due to the fact that his twin, Mario, stopped growing. Both twins survived birth, and were taken to the NICU where they remained for months.
Unfortunately, Alexandros developed hydrocephalus, and a brain shunt was permanently placed in his head. He suffered infantile spasms and the brain hemorrhage caused damage to his brain. Soon thereafter, he was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. By the age of two, Alexandros has had a total of nine surgeries.
At the age of three he managed to be able to sit alone, holding objects so that he could get up and walk with a walker. However, he cannot take steps alone or keep his balance if he does not hold on to something.
According to the neurosurgeon Dr. T.S. Park from St. Louis Children's Hospital in Missouri, Alexander may end up in a wheelchair as an adult if his spasticity is not removed, as it is causing damage to his muscle and skeletal systems.
The mother of little Alexandros, Olga Kallergi spoke to TNH about the problem of her three-year-old son.
“It is so painful for a mother to watch her three year old boy lie down, put his head on the floor, his hands over it, and cry in desperation because he just attempted to leave his hands free and balance but fell … and despite these continuous falls, he keeps trying and trying, never giving up. Alex is such a strong-willed kid.
“Hellenic Heart for Kids can give hope not just to me and my son but so many other families in Greece that cannot afford to offer their children the better future, the better life, that medical treatment abroad can secure for them.
Fundraising in Greece, like so many other things unfortunately, is almost utopic. There is so much bureaucracy associated with opening a fund-raising account that it is almost impossible to do. Unless your child is dying and has been treated in a public hospital and you are lucky enough to have a doctor that is sympathetic to your child’s need. And even then, families must fight so hard to get it done, as if they don’t already have to fight enough every day.”
Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy can be performed on only a few parts of the world. One of them is St. Louis Hospital. To do this requires $75,000 and the organization's goal is to raise it by September 2021 so that by the end of the year the child can be transported to America.
When the doctors told the mother of Alexandros about the operation, she asked for help from a friend of hers in America.
“When I was told that SDR was the only option available that could improve my son’s prognosis, I turned to a most trusted friend for help. I knew I could never find the money on my own and I needed to – it was my child we were talking about, there was no room for pride … At that time, I never imagined this private conversation would be the spark that would start a flame of hope not just for my son but for many children to follow. I never imagined that I had provided my friend with motivation to start a cause that went above and beyond just Alex, a cause that other families will turn to in the future.”
Bessie Hatzigiorgi, a member of the board of directors, spoke to TNH about why she decided to deal with the organization and to contribute as much as she can to this effort.
"It is a fact that we are not all the same. Some are born healthy and some do not have this privilege.
That is why I believe that if you are well and you can, there is no more human thing than giving and helping your fellow human beings. I remember from the time I was a child, my parents always showed interest in helping, and I remember many times hosting families from Cyprus in our house whose children had health problems and needed transplants.
Today, it is a great honor and pleasure for me to follow their footsteps and I will help in any way I can, through this organization."
Alexandros’ mother, referring to the organization, emphasizes that "it exists because Greeks have something we should all feel proud about: big hearts and what we call “filotimo”. It is a cause that can unite all of us, throughout the United States and the world towards one common goal: changing children’s lives. If we can accomplish that, we have made a difference with our own lives. At nights, I close my eyes and imagine having taken my son to the United States, having had the surgery and returning home. I imagine his grandparents waiting at the gate and Alex coming out walking! I picture his grandparents’ tears of happiness … It is the thought that keeps me going.”