Save a Child’s Heart

Danny Ritter, a member of the Canadian board of Save A Child’s Heart.

What is the mission of Save A Child’s Heart (SACH)?

Danny Ritter (DR): The mission of Save A Child’s Heart (SACH) is twofold: medical care for children with congenital heart disease developing countries, and training for medical professionals in their home countries.

The process is well established. SACH goes to each country on a local mission where they broadcast the arrival of their doctors on the radio. The broadcast messages explain symptoms of congenital heart disease, for instance if the child has difficulty breathing or playing, and details about SACH’s local missions. Families, mothers especially, will travel miles and miles to bring their sick child to the hospital for treatment. Once there, local medical personnel work with SACH’s doctors to identify as many children as they can that have congenital heart disease. Some of the children with milder cases of congenital heart disease can be treated on the spot, others are short listed to be sent to SACH’s hospital in Israel for a life-changing surgery.

SACH’s mission also involves local training to help medical professionals develop the necessary expertise to treat children in their home countries. This idea of nurturing local expertise is an essential part of the mission. For instance, the Canadian branch of SACH has focused on building a centre of excellence in Tanzania, where the focus is on training medical professionals: doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, etc.

SACH’s mission carries an important message: no matter their race, religion or gender, every child deserves to be treated with dignity and to have access to medical treatment. It’s reflected in the core of SACH’s philosophy as well: “Mending hearts, building bridges”.

How did you become involved?

DR: In 2014, Richter was honoured during the Jewish National Fund of Canada’s annual Negev Dinner for our history of being truly committed to the community and ensuring our values of helping those in need. As an honouree, we chose to raise funds for SACH during our dinner. Richter’s involvement in the creation of a courtyard at the Wolfson Medical Center in Israel. This courtyard would be a nice green space where the patients would be able to go before or after their surgeries – allowing them to take a breath of fresh air. The project also involved the construction of a state-of-the-art pediatric centre. It was a project that spoke to our clients, our team members and our firm.

This dinner was probably when I first started to really get involved with SACH, learning more about their mission and seeing how it aligned with my values. Following my involvement with the dinner, I became a member of the board of SACH Canada. The Canadian board works with SACH’s international board in Israel to help them channel funds and develop projects.

Richter is supporting the build of a hospital in Israel which is set to open early this year. This facility will provide life-changing surgeries to many children in need. Participating in such an important project really brings things into perspective. What have you learned from this experience? Why is community involvement important to you?

DR: I’m a big believer that people should get involved in things that they feel passionate about – a cause that speaks to them. In my case, when I became aware of how many children suffered from congenital heart disease, something that can be treated with access to proper medical care, which is readily available in Canada and countries like it – I knew I had to get involved. I also loved the idea of building bridges between people and communities who otherwise would never meet each other. You have children from all over the world interacting, and doctors from everywhere cooperating, and so on.

“SACH has a wide ripple effect that goes beyond medical care for children with congenital heart disease. So, I knew I had to be a part of it and contribute in any way I could to SACH’s mission.”

What I learned from this experience is that even if I gave just a little of myself to this cause, I received so much more in return. The opportunity to meet new people, to build relationships, and to work together for a great cause.

How has your involvement with SACH impacted your outlook on life?

DR: Working with SACH has impacted my outlook on life in so many ways. For instance, the importance to remind myself that my life isn’t as difficult as I like to think it is sometimes. It really puts things in perspective. SACH helps children that have very little; but the smile on their face and their parents’ faces when they’re healed is so wide. It makes you feel like everything is going to be fine and for an instant there’s nothing wrong with the world.

What’s next for SACH?

DR: There are several great projects ahead. One that’s particularly interesting is the construction of a dedicated centre for training new medical professionals at the hospital in Israel. This centre will enable SACH to host simulation training for doctors from different countries. The idea behind the simulation centre is that it allows doctors to practise fictive cases without the need for a patient. It gives doctors and medical professionals the opportunity to develop the necessary skills and in-depth knowledge required to operate on children with congenital heart disease in their home country. In the future, I see SACH investing more in the mission of training. I also think SACH might invest in building centres of excellence in other countries – specifically in countries that are truly committed to the cause, prepared to build the expertise, and ready allocate resources and funds. It’s an opportunity for SACH to build strong partnerships.