The concept of the program was began in 1974 when Rotarians from the Manhasset Rotary Club took on a small project and responded to a request for help from the Kampala Rotary Club in Uganda. The response brought five-year old Grace Agwaru on a 5,000 mile journey from Uganda to Roslyn, NY. On November 15, 1974 she underwent a very successful four hour open-heart surgical procedure to close a hole between the two lower chambers of her small heart at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, NY.

After a successful journey, their idea turned into a reality which motivated the creation of the Gift of Life, Inc in 1975. They decided their mission was to help save the lives of children affected by congenital heart disease and other affiliated cardiac diseases. As the organization progressed, more philanthropists devoted their personal time for the cause to help save more children’s lives. Over 45 years later, we have successfully saved more than 11,500 children’s lives. What was once a small project has developed into a global mission.


Becoming an International Initiative

From the beginning, Gift of Life, Inc. has been a project of Rotarians from Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, and the surrounding areas. In 2003, Franco Di Marco and Aldo Frustaci, two Rotarians from the Verrazano Rotary Club, took an exploratory trip to Italy with an idea in mind. While there, they met with Dr. Giancarlo Crupi and the Ospedali Riuinti di Bergamo (United Hospitals of Bergamo) to discuss the possibility of establishing international cooperation to continue Gift of Life, Inc’s mission to continue saving children’s lives. It was at this time that the Gift of Life international was born.

Agreements & Partnerships

In 2005, an agreement was signed between Gift of Life Italy, USA, Ospedali Riuniti di Bergamo, Italy and Safe Child Life Tel Aviv, Israel to announce three missions to Moldova. Between 2005 and 2008, children from Moldova, Algeria and Iraq received surgeries, thanks to the work of Gift of Life Italy, USA. In 2008, a new agreement was signed, which helped to provide surgeries for Palestinian children living in a refugee camp in Syria.

In 2009 and 2010, a partnership between Gift of Life Italy,USA, Gift of Life International, the region of Lombardia and Ospedali Riuniti di Bergamo was formed. Working with these partners, Gift of Life Italy, USA, became the driving force behind the programs “Our Hearts are in Uganda” and “Our Hearts are in El Salvador,” which provided surgeries for 6 children from those countries at the Ospedali Riuniti di Bergamo, Italy.

In 2012, Gift of Life Italy of New York sponsored a six month surgery mission at the Clinique – Bonnes Oeuvres du Coeur in Casablanca, Morocco. A total of 60 patients received a second chance at life by Dr. Giancarlo Crupi, Pediatric Cardiac Surgeon at the A. O. Papa Giovanni XXIII of Bergamo, Italy. This would not have been possible without the partnership and the financial support of Gift of Life, Inc.

Our Global Reach

In 2013, Gift of Life Italy of New York, in cooperation with The Hearts with Hope Foundation, Gift of Life International and the financial help of Gift of Life, Inc., sponsored a Training Surgery Mission to the Benjamin Bloom Hospital in San Salvador, El Salvador led by Dr. Giancarlo Crupi, Pediatric Cardiac Surgeon from Italy. Thanks to this team, from July 21 – July 27 2013, 8 children received open heart surgery and 2 children received catheterization procedures.

We ended the year 2013 with a mission in pediatric cardiac surgery at the European Hospital in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip. After the team set up in the European Gaza Hospital, a team of 11 doctors and nurses, led by Dr. Giancarlo Crupi, provided 6 children with open heart surgeries. This would not have been possible without the partnership with PCRF and the financial support of Gift of Life Italy of New York, Inc.