Sometimes you just never know how something you say or do will affect a life, or dozens, or hundreds, or thousands.
Sometimes you’re lucky enough to find out.
In the story I am going to tell, three dominoes fell. They started something 12 years ago that was, and is, amazing. They are still falling and are creating a story of authentic help, good will and success.
My wife, Joava, tipped over the first domino when she joined the Draper, Utah, Rotary Club. As she always does when she takes on a project, she gets very active. Things happen. In this case, she helped raise the money to build a park for the handicapped.
Rotary was on my mind when the next domino fell.
In 2003, I was having a conversation with a long-term client and friend, Bill Pickens, senior vice president-investment officer, Wells Fargo Advisors in Memphis, Tennessee.
At the time, he didn’t know if he wanted to retire, stay in the game or just go fishing. I told him, “Before you pack it up, why don’t you take on a project bigger than you. Rotary has a lot of good projects. Go join them.”
Soon, a third domino tipped.
As Bill tells the story:
“Not too long after I joined Rotary, I met an advisor in New Jersey from Wachovia. He was involved in a Rotary program called ‘Gift of Life.’ It provides life-saving surgery to children from Third World countries who suffer from congenital heart defects. They have no access to facilities that can save their lives.”
At the time, there was no such program in Memphis. Bill got to work. Lots of dominoes began to tip. As Bill tells the story, “I formed a group of Rotarians from Rotary Club of Memphis East to approach the new CEO of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital about becoming a participating hospital for GOL [Gift of Life].”
Bill continues: “We worked out an arrangement with Le Bonheur. The physicians and anesthesiologists donate their services. Le Bonheur provides the facilities for treatment. Our volunteers provide logistics and hospitality. I personally get their flight arrangements made to get them here. We have a participating Rotary Club appoint a welcoming committee to greet them at the gate and take them to the FedEx House across from the hospital.”
He adds: “While in surgery, we have a volunteer sit with the parent. We also arrange for a clergy member of their faith to sit with them until the child is out of surgery. We have a website for people to sign up to bring food and companionship for those families that are in a strange city where they don’t know anyone and don’t speak the language. It is the ultimate in ‘customer service’ and exemplifies ‘Service over Self’ [a Rotary slogan].”
GOL Mid-South started with two people (both named Bill) and now has a board of 18 members. Its mission statement: To promote world peace and understanding by providing access to heart-saving medical services for children throughout the world regardless of race, creed or national origin.
Bill notes: “From its start in 2007, GOL Mid-South has brought 60 children to Memphis for lifesaving operations from faraway places like Honduras, China, Nigeria and Central America.”
His Royal Highness, Olanrewaju Abegunde, the Olunaun of Unaun, is, for real, a Nigerian Prince. His son had been diagnosed with a hole in his heart and was failing rapidly. He has lost sight in one eye. His “good eye” had been damaged by an operation intended to repair it.