Cover Stories

Saving Lives

Despite their best intentions, loving parents can’t always provide what their children need. When kids in Central American and Caribbean countries require medical treatment their families can’t afford, World Pediatric Project steps in to provide medical expertise and compassionate care. The organization relies a great deal on private support, and St. Louisans respond generously to its fundraising efforts, according to founder and senior program director Kate Corbett.

“In many areas of the world, children suffer and die from conditions that are treated routinely in the U.S.,” she says. “We transform and save lives by sending surgical, diagnostic and capacity-building teams to 12 partner nations and by bringing kids to the U.S. for complex surgical care.” This year alone, the organization has assembled 51 volunteer groups of health professionals and flown 110 patients to U.S. hospitals for life-changing operations. Annually, about 2,500 kids benefit from services like heart surgery, neurosurgery, orthopedics, reconstructive plastic surgery, physical therapy and more.

The nonprofit, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary, also is actively involved in training programs that help local doctors provide modern care in partner nations. “Some of our newest teaching initiatives focus on caring for the tiniest, most fragile newborns and treating young people with scoliosis, which causes great pain and social stigma and can be life-threatening,” Corbett says.

The capacity to help more kids in more countries rests heavily on the organization’s ability to raise private support. Each year, it holds the Treasures in Paradise gala, which attracts more than 500 guests for an evening of tropical-themed fun and celebration. The event is much more than a dazzling party, though; it’s a tribute to all of the children the organization has treated in the past and will help in the future. “Funds from the gala make up nearly half of our annual St. Louis budget,” Corbett says. “It has become known as ‘the best cocktail party in town,’ and it features incredible food and wine.” This year, the event is scheduled for Jan. 24, 2020. Joe and Michelle Buck will be on hand to auction off an array of exciting trip packages and other treasures, and guests will have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of children.

Locally, World Pediatric Project works with Ronald McDonald House, SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, Shriners Hospitals for Children, St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Mercy to serve patients from partner countries. “We are very excited about the steady growth of hospital partnerships in cities like Philadelphia and Dallas as well,” Corbett adds. “They are helping to take care of the ever-growing list of children who need surgery in the U.S.”

She says the need is always considerable, but the dedication of the nonprofit’s supporters is even greater. “We receive incredible thanks and appreciation from parents for the gift of healing their children,” she notes. “With the help of our medical volunteers, hospitals, supply partners and donors, we have alleviated suffering and saved the lives of thousands of patients. We believe that where children live should not be the deciding factor in whether they are embraced and healed. Our work is tangible, transparent and life-changing for the giver as well as the recipient.”

World Pediatric Project sends teams of medical professionals to 12 Central American and Caribbean countries and brings children to the U.S. for surgery. Its Treasures in Paradise gala will be held Jan. 24, 2020. Pictured on the cover: Amy Wellen, Lauren Pronger, Kim Cella and Michelle Buck with WPP Patients Ronan and Kaitlyn. For more information about the gala, call Linda Boyland at 314.317.8809 or visit

Cover design by Julie Streiler
Cover photo by Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton Photography

Pictured at top: Dr. Babak Rahimi examines Merisa, a heart patient from Dominica.