Charity helps kids with illnesses and disabilities

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Charity helps kids with illnesses and disabilities

An 11-year-old boy visited the dentist last October for the first time in his life. His teeth needed quite a bit of work, including one tooth that had to be pulled.

For an average child, the work would have taken an hour. For this boy, it took eight hours.

The 11-year-old suffers from a brain condition that makes it hard to control his body movements, especially of his arms and legs. He required a general anesthetic just to have routine dental work.

The child’s treatment was made possible thanks to support from the Paju municipal government and the Ronald McDonald House Charities Korea (RMHC), which worked with the medical staff at Seoul National University (SNU) Dental Hospital.

The child with the neurological condition didn’t have to worry about the medical bill and received the best treatment at a top dental hospital. Today he eats better and has a happier smile.

“It is difficult for disabled children to get medical treatment, even routine treatment, and the quality of life for the children declines,” said Ryu In-chul, president of SNU Dental Hospital. “We decided to provide such medical services after thinking about what we could do to help such children.”

RMHC is a nonprofit organization that has been providing medical and educational support for children with severe disabilities and who come from low-income families like the 11-year-old.

RMHC was started in 1974 in Philadelphia when it started to collect donations to financially support children who have been in hospitals for a long time. It received significant support from the McDonald’s Corporation, which explains its name, but it is totally independent.

The charity set up its 51st branch in Korea in 2007. Currently it is working with major medical centers including SNU Dental Hospital as well as Yonsei University’s Severance Hospital in running programs such as medical treatments as well as family camps.

RMHC is considering building an RMHC House at Pusan National University Hospital in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang, where families of children who have been staying at the hospital for an extensive period can relax.

It is a space in which children for whom a hospital has become home can spend time with their families outside the wards.

RMHC’s Korean operation has become more active since Jeffery Jones, former Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, took the helm of the nonprofit charity in July.

When he took office, Jones started a writing contest for children with disabilities or who have been intensely ill instead of holding an inauguration ceremony.

He said the idea of a writing competition came after he read a poem from a young child with an illness about wanting to have an eraser that would ease his pain.

Jones said he plans to continue to do volunteer work as a person who has lived almost 40 years in Korea and also as a parent raising children.

RMHC plans to hold a pet fashion show at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) on Oct. 2 as a fundraising event.

The goal is to hold a meaningful fundraiser for the children with disabilities or illnesses through a fashion show enjoyed with pets that are like family members.

U.S. ambassador Mark Lippert plans to go on stage with his own pet dog Grigsby at the event as well as other Korean celebrities.

BY PARK SOO-RYUN [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]

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