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Collaborations in International Care

Omar and Elissa Montanti, founder and director of Global Medical Relief Fund, reading together

Over the years, Shriners Children's Philadelphia team members have built a long-standing relationship with the Global Medical Relief Fund (GMRF), based out of Staten Island, New York. For over 25 years, GMRF has provided aid to children in need who have lost the use of or are missing limbs or eyes, have experienced severe burns, or have been injured due to war, natural disasters or illness. More than 400 children have been treated at Shriners Children's through the work of this non-governmental organization founded by Elissa Montanti.

Montanti's work has caught the eyes of many media outlets. In 2011, a segment on 60 Minutes showcased GMRF (including scenes shot at the Philadelphia Shriners Hospital). This broadcast caught the attention of CEO Miles Nadal of MDC Partners, and filmmaker Tyler Perry, who then purchased a home in Staten Island as a place for children to live during their treatment in the United States. They call it the "Dare to Dream" house.

"Elissa is a one-of-a-kind person. She founded a grassroots organization that has made a profound difference in children's lives across the globe," said Scott H. Kozin, M.D., chief of staff. "GMRF has truly changed lives for the better, and rescued children from dire situations."

Recently, GMRF and Shriners Children's Philadelphia collaborated to provide specialty pediatric care for Omar, a 5-year-old boy from Gaza. Omar experienced injuries from a bomb that killed his immediate family members. Omar lost part of one arm and has injuries to his face and leg. After traveling to the United States with his Aunt, GMRF will support their needs while he receives medical care at Shriners Children's Philadelphia.

When Omar, his aunt, and the GMRF team arrived at Shriners Children's, they were welcomed and assisted by a medical interpreter. Dr. Kozin and several other staff examined him. Omar recently turned 5, and for all the newness and loss he has experienced, he was anxious but cooperative with the medical team. Dr. Kozin and his multidisciplinary team assessed Omar's needs and developed an individualized plan of care, just like every child who comes to the hospital.

Omar has injuries that need time to heal before the next steps begin. A plan for surgery, physical and occupational therapy, and a custom-fitted prosthetic arm will help Omar adjust to the new changes in his life.

GMRF transports all of the children they help back to the hospital each year as they grow, so they receive the necessary follow-up care. "The relationship we've developed with Shriners Children's over the years is remarkable. We are on the same page for making a difference," said Montanti. "We give these children a chance to live with dignity. Dr. Kozin is a true humanitarian who exemplifies, with honor, what the Shriners organizations stand for."

Omar and his nurse, Maryellen, spent some time playing with the bead maze in the playroom.

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