Fifteen Rye children will compete in the Jarden Westchester Kids and Olympic Triathlon Races this weekend to raise funds and awareness for the Global Medical Relief Fund (GMRF). The organization is dedicated to helping children overcome adversity and physical setbacks and helps to provide surgeries and prosthetics for child victims of war and natural disaster. Although hospitals and doctors provide pro bono medical care, the GMRF coordinates all medical treatment and covers the cost of travel expenses for children coming from their home countries to the U.S., and living expenses during treatment.
Ngawang Tsetan is a 17-year-old Tibetan refugee who lost both of his arms when he was electrocuted in India who GMRF has helped. Tstetan’s resilience will be inspiring to watch as he participates in this year’s triathlon, running with Rye teen Jack O’Brien at his side.
Rye teens Dillon Kelly, 17, and Patrick Curran, 16, who got to know Tsetan personally, will do the swimming and biking portions of the race, respectively, as part of Tsetan’s team. Several other adults from Rye will also be participating in the triathlon and fundraising.
Rye’s Jane Curran, Sharon Doyle, Audrey Labovitz, Claire Labovitz and Reece Wolfson will be participating in the children’s triathlon.
All the friends and family of participants will be there at the finish line with some other amputee children whom GMRF has helped cheering on the participants.
“The Rye community has been very generous through their monetary donations and in their help in training the athletes,” said Maria Curran, Patrick and Jane’s mother.
A Personal Connection
How the Rye
children became involved
The Rye children got to know children like they had never met before at a Resurrection Church Carnival held to raise money for GMRF about four years ago. The GMRF kids included Waad, an Iraqi who lost an arm and leg when he kicked a can with a bomb in it during a game of kick the can; Achmed, an Iraqi who lost an arm and became blind after a bomb went off; Sarah, a victim of the Haiti earthquake who lost her mother and Ngawang, a the Tibetian refugee who lost both arms and who is currently living in Staten Island with his mother while his father and sister live in India.
These children needed a temporary home during treatment in New York and Rye families provided that and much more. The children became friends and Rye kids got a chance to understand the world from a perspective opposite from their own.
"If more people met the kids, we might
really have a chance at world peace," said Jack O'Brien, a Rye teenager who
will be running with Ngawang in the triathlon.
"These kids have really opened our minds to the rest of the world,” Dillon Kelly said. Kelly is doing the swimming portion of the Tri for their team.
The local kids became committed to helping raise money for the annual follow-up treatments of their GMRF friends. They are now also looking forward to meeting and helping new children who are on the waiting list for GMRF help.
"The Global kids come to stay at our house, so now it just seems like the only thing to do - you have to help," said Pat Curran, doing the biking portion of the race.
Rye residents Sue O’Brien, Jennifer Griffiths and Allison Chader will also be helping to support this charity at the triathlon by organizing efforts and collecting donations under the tent in the Rye Town Park.
"Kids helping kids is what its all about.
If this hands-on lesson existed in a classroom, we could really end
prejudice and learn to truly love one another. Imagine,” said Sue O’Brien.
More on Ngawang and GMRF:
Ngawang Tsetan has lived his whole life in a Tibetan refugee camp. At age 14, while playing one day outside of the camp, he noticed a kit tangled high in the trees. He had never flown a kitebefore, so he climbed up an aluminum pole nearby in an effort to retrieve it. He began to reach up intot eh trees and hit a live wire. He woke up on the ground 10 minutes later electrocuted, unable to see or hear.
His cousin had put out the fire that was burning his arms and chest. His sight and hearing came back but he was badly burned. He endured an eight hour ambulance ride to a hospital where they amputated both of his arms.
Tsetan’s school director had learned about GMRF from a segment CBS 60 minutes had done. GMRF is charity started and run by Rye resident Maria Curran’s cousin, Elissa Montanti of Staten Island.
“Her mission is to help children who have lost limbs from war and natural disasters,” Curran said.
Tsetan’s school director reached out to Montanti for help and she made it happen. Since then he has had three surgeries, intense rehabilitation and recently received two new electric arms.
He is living in the GMRF on Staten Island, with several other children who are currently undergoing treatment for lost limbs. This organization helps children like Tsetan worldwide.
Montanti will be at the triathlon with some of her college summer interns who will be participating in a relay as well.
Other GMRF Kids coming to event to cheer Ngawang and team members on:
Ahmed - 16 years old from Iraq. Missing his sight and arm from a bomb explosion
Saajad Shakir -11 years old from Iraq. severely burned and missing leg from car bomb
Benedict Quyale - 12 from Liberia, missing leg - war related
Rye residents who are participating in triathlon to raise money for GMRF:
Ellie Kelly - individual
Maria Curran- individual
Tom Ott - individual
Kirstin Bucci - individual
Shelly Wolfson - individual
Ted Tutun - relay
Jeff O'Brien - relay
Jake Dolce –relay
Patrick Curran (11th grade)
Dillon Kelly (12th grade)
Jack O'Brien (12th grade)
Jane Curran (9th grade) children's triathlon
Sharon Doyle (9th grade) children's triathlon
Audrey Labovitz (6th grade) children's triathlon
Claire Labovitz (4th grade) children's triathlon
Reece Wolfson (7th grade) children's triathlon
Emily Wolfson (9th grade)
So far, the group has raised approximately $10,000. Rye participants are indepenedlty collecting donations in the form of checks and they are accepting donations on GiveFoward.com, through which about $5,425 has been donated. Their goal is $40,000.
If anyone is interested in contributing please visit the GMRF table under the tent during or after the race, or log onto www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/c9r2/got-hope- to make a donation online. Checks can also be mailed to me at 349 Park Avenue, Rye, NY 10580.