A San Diego County-based nonprofit encouraged the public this month to submit applications for children who might need surgical help. Fresh Start Surgical Gifts, which has helped more than 8,100 children, said it plans to continue its mission despite the coronavirus pandemic that has devastated the world.
With the help of 500 volunteers, Fresh Start Surgical Gifts offers no-cost reconstructive surgery to disadvantaged infants, children, and teens with physical deformities. More than 8,100 children have benefitted from the roughly $42 million in services.
“Every child is special, and we want to give those in need a medical opportunity that in many cases is life changing,” Michelle Pius, chief development officer for Fresh Start Surgical Gifts, said. “In these uncertain and scary times, we want to put the word out that we want applications so we can get them in the queue to start the review and approval process. Once we are able to re-start surgical weekends when they lift the non-emergency surgery ban, we can hit the ground running to help these precious children.”
Although Pius said the nonprofit is still accepting applications to help children in need, Fresh Start Surgical Gifts needs funding support more than ever.
“Fresh Start runs on individual and foundation support with 100% of all donations directly benefiting our medical program to help these families and children,” Pius said. “Due to the current climate we anticipate an increase in applications and are gearing up to meet the need. With financial uncertainty and unemployment skyrocketing along with loss of employer sponsored health insurance, families should not have to choose between rent and medical care for their child.”
Pius said the nonprofit is hoping to increase public awareness so that they can reach more children and families from disadvantaged communities.
“Families are experiencing a high amount of anxiety about what the future holds,” said Pius, who noted she and her staff are now working remotely. “They needn’t worry about whether their child will be able to receive corrective medical care. We can and will relieve that anxiety.”
During “normal” times, the nonprofit serves roughly 350 to 400 patients a year. The nonprofit accepts applications from children around the world.
“To determine whether a child is a good candidate or not, once we receive an application from a potential child/family, we first determine if it is a condition our volunteer medical team can handle as we specialize in treating physical or cosmetic deformities,” Pius said. “We then check the insurance situation as they must be uninsured or underinsured or in these uncertain times, their family would suffer financial hardship if they had to pay for the deductible and co-pays.”
Once hospitals and health care workers receive the OK to perform elective surgeries, the nonprofit will move forward with all planned work.
“The needs of the children to lead better lives don’t stop because of a pandemic,” Pius said. “They don’t choose to be born with a physical or cosmetic deformity or to be scarred in an accident or by abuse. Fresh Start is a tremendous safety net for children with nowhere else to turn for the medical care they desperately need to live a better life.”
For more information about Fresh Start Surgical Gifts, go to www.freshstart.org.
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