Stony Brook University students have started a club to help bring Gift of Life, a non-profit organization, to campus.
The club is affiliated with Gift of Life International, which works to bring awareness to and provide care for children with cardiac-related illnesses living in countries where they are unable to receive treatment. The organization has a global network of 84 affiliates in rotarian districts, such as Long Island.
Michael Maresco, Gift of Life club president and senior business management and biology double major, said that in the future they’d like to become an official chapter, but right now the Stony Brook club is “just an organization that’s affiliated with and endorsed by the Gift of Life International.”
“We want to come up with different fundraising techniques in the United States to make these surgeries possible for [children,]” Maresco said, explaining that the club hopes to raise more awareness around children who come from developing countries and might not have the funding for surgeries.
Maresco, who’s on the pre-med track and does a lot of cardiac-related research, said that his work, along with his grandparents — who were heavily involved with Gift of Life International — inspired him to start the club.
“With all the research, I have been able to see that there is a growing concern for children who develop cardiac abnormalities,” he said.
Sonal Swain, a freshman psychology and health science double major, is the head of Public Relations for the Gift of Life club on campus. Swain says she was approached by Maresco and asked if she would be interested in being apart of the e-board. She proceeded to look into the organization and loved its philosophy and mission.
“I’m excited to use social media as a platform to reach out to students, faculty and staff across the campus to introduce the organization and bring awareness to its stories and the incredible work it does around the world,” Swain said.
She said the club plans to host professional panels with leaders of the organization and invite researchers and doctors to help make the mission of Gift of Life come to reality.
“Although it may draw pre-health students because of the medical and public health focus of the organization, we want all members of our community to feel welcome, have a voice and show them that they can make an impact regardless of their major, career aspirations, backgrounds, etc.,” Swain said.
Dayanna Zuluaga, a sophomore biology major, is the secretary of activities for the Gift of Life club. She came across Gift of Life when her friend, Maresco, told her how special the Gift of Life organization was to him, and that he wanted to provide opportunities to children on a greater scale.
“I believe that by sticking to bringing awareness to the Gift of Life International organization that provides lifesaving cardiac treatment to children in developing countries regardless of gender, creed, or national origin- this club will start off on an excellent note,” Zuluaga wrote in an email.