Gala to aid bringing Chernobyl children to Boston for care

With the help of Chernobyl Children Project USA, Mariya Demenkova of Gomel, Belarus underwent surgery at Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center in Boston to remove a pituitary brain tumor in 2005. She will receive follow-up care when she returns with a group of 90 children this summer. Pilot photo/ Courtesy Chernobyl Children Project USA

BOSTON -- For the past 13 years, Patty Doyle has worked tirelessly to help children from Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine living with the effects of the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station. This year, Doyle and the other dedicated volunteers at the Chernobyl Children Project USA, the non-profit organization Doyle heads, have found a new way to help.

On May 9, Chernobyl Children Project USA will host its first ever Goodwill Gala at the Sheraton Braintree Hotel. The gala, which will be hosted by WCVB meteorologist Mike Wankum, will include cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and desserts. Tickets are $50 and all proceeds will benefit the Chernobyl Children Project USA.

Doyle hopes the fundraiser will raise enough to fund the airfare and visas for 90 children from the Chernobyl-affected area to come to Boston to receive necessary medical care. Five Russian doctors -- a surgeon, an ophthalmologist, three pediatricians and a director of a pediatric medical center -- will travel with the children to receive medical training so they can better care for other children back in Russia.

“We are hopeful that this fundraiser will be something that can open the doors for these children to come to us this year,” Doyle said. So far, she said, “a lot of people have shown they are very excited about this.”

“It’s a very worthwhile cause -- helping to raise money to bring these children here,” she added.

Doyle just returned from Russia together with a team of pediatricians headed by Dr. John Kulig of Tufts Medical Center in Boston. The doctors spoke with the parents, taking medical histories of each of the 90 children who will be travelling to Boston in June. Five of the children have already come to Boston in previous years and are returning for surgeries or post-operative care they cannot receive in their poverty-stricken homeland, Doyle said. The rest will come for the first time -- some with severe burns and adhesions, others with extreme scoliosis, a curvature of the spine.

The children will stay with host families during the month they will be in the Boston area. Doyle trains each host family, initiating them into the Russian culture, as well as discussing with them the medical and dental appointments the children will need during their stay. In addition, the host families are invited to participate in a variety of fun outings with the children, such as a New England Revolution soccer game, a Boston Harbor cruise and a city trolley tour.

“We try to make their stay not just about the medical,” Doyle told The Pilot in an interview earlier this year. “These are children. We try to have them experience fun things during their stay -- things they can’t experience back at home because they come from poor villages.”

“The poverty there is incredible,” she added.

In addition to planning the Goodwill Gala, Doyle is currently scheduling appointments at area hospitals for each of the children. She is also coordinating with LensCrafters, which has offered to provide glasses for any children that have vision problems. In addition, the Kids Clothes Club, a grassroots organization that provides winter coats for children in need, has offered to donate a winter coat to each of the 90 children.

Doyle is also looking for additional host families, both to host children as well as their doctors and interpreters.

It is no small feat.

“This is the time of year when I don’t have any friends,” joked Doyle. “Usually they begin to call me in September.”

Despite her overwhelming schedule, Doyle’s excitement is palpable.

“I just love this,” she said. “It’s funny how God just put me into this, and this is where he wants me to be.”

For more information about the Goodwill Gala, or to volunteer to become a host family, contact Patty Doyle at 781-251-0137 or visit www.ccpusa.org.

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