Cover Stories

Care for All: World Pediatric Project

Three main attractions draw guests to World Pediatric Project’s fundraising gala each year: A selection of the finest wines, amazing vacation packages at auction—and the satisfaction of knowing their participation helps save children’s lives.

The nonprofit’s 2019 Treasures in Paradise gala takes place Jan. 25 at Old Warson Country Club, and it promises to be a memorable evening, according to executive director Linda Wulf. “We tailor the event around a Caribbean theme, and attendees know they’ll get fabulous wines to enjoy and luxurious vacation packages to bid on,” she says. “The vacation properties belong to influential donors in the Caribbean who offer their homes for experiences you’d never be able to get elsewhere. The gala tends to sell out every year because people know how wonderful it is.”

Like its main fundraiser, the nonprofit itself is something pretty special. World Pediatric Project funds the work of U.S. surgeons and nurses who travel to 13 Caribbean and Central American nations to treat kids who otherwise would have no access to care. “We send out 55 medical teams each year from St. Louis and other cities, and they dive deep into areas like Honduras, Guatemala and the eastern Caribbean,” Wulf says. “They perform critical surgeries to help kids heal from conditions like scoliosis, craniofacial deformities and heart problems.”

The volunteer teams commit to a week in one country, and they return yearly to check on past patients and see new ones. “We pay for the teams’ travel, medical supplies, food and lodging, and they generously provide their medical expertise,” Wulf says. “Last year alone, we served 3,100 children and supported $31 million worth of programs and surgical care, $25 million of which was in-kind. For every dollar donated, we are able to provide $5 of medical help. That’s pretty amazing.”

WPP also pays to bring about 120 children a year to the U.S. for more complex surgeries. A family member travels with each patient and can stay at a Ronald McDonald House or other facility while the child receives treatment. Wulf says four local medical centers—St. Louis Children’s Hospital, SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, Shriners Hospital and Mercy—regularly partner with the nonprofit. WPP employs 12 dedicated staff members in St. Louis and a total of 47 around the world.

Nonmedical volunteers are a critical resource as well, according to Wulf. “We have about 400 and are always looking for more, as we can only survive with their love and help,” she notes. “We offer lots of ways to give your time and are flexible about hours and commitment. We also are developing a wonderful group of young professionals as leaders, donors and board members. If you have a passion for helping children, we are the organization for you.”

Wulf says WPP is looking toward the future with a great deal of optimism. “We hope to double the number of children we help by 2023,” she notes. “Kids in the countries we serve are dying of conditions considered easily treatable here. We only can do this miraculous work with the help of our medical teams, partner facilities, board members, volunteers and supporters. It takes a total village to make it happen.”

World Pediatric Project funds 55 medical teams a year to provide surgical services for children in 13 eastern Caribbean and Central American countries. Its 2019 Treasures in Paradise fundraising gala is Jan. 25 at Old Warson Country Club. Pictured on the cover: WPP patients with event chairs Debra Niemann, Kim Cella, Tom McMillin, Julie Ledbetter and Rusty Keeley.  For more information on the gala, call 314.317.8809 or visit worldpediatricproject.org.

Cover design by Julie Streiler
Cover photo by Tim Parker Photography

Pictured at top: WPP medical teams care for thousands of children each year.

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