One morning in February 2005, at the suggestion of his friends and family, David Ortiz went to CEDIMAT Hospital, in his home country of the Dominican Republic to visit children who had recently received life-saving heart care operations. The children had all received heart surgery through the work of Heartcare Dominicana, an NGO in the Dominican Republic, with the aid of International Hospital for Children, a U.S. based not-for-profit assisting to train medical personnel. David was simply hoping to put a smile on the children’s faces and help them forget their troubles for a moment.
As David walked through the Intensive Care Unit, he was reminded of his own childhood and imagined a young Papi in their position. These children should have been outside playing in the ball fields, not fighting health problems. David was truly amazed by the resilience of the sick children and their parents.
When Big Papi reached the last hospital bed, he saw a two-year old boy who was recovering from surgery and crying into the arms of his mother. David thought about his own son who was the same age and, thank God, healthy. This boy looked so fragile, so small. David was overwhelmed and left the hospital that day tearfully uttering his desire, his need, to do something for these children. He made a promise that he would help them somehow.
After David’s historic season with the Boston Red Sox in 2006, he hosted an event which raised funds through personal contributions, ticket sales and a silent auction. The money raised allowed David to give back to the children who touched him a year prior. To continue his mission, David established the David Ortiz Children’s Fund, in partnership with International Hospital for Children.
On David’s next visit to CEDIMAT Hospital, he was accompanied by $200,000 check made out to Heartcare Dominicana. These funds were meant to allow Heartcare Dominicana to continue and expand upon the great work they were doing. That same day, David met Diana Reyes, a 14 year old girl from San Pedro de Macoris, who was the first official beneficiary of the David Ortiz Children’s Fund. Diana’s eyes lit up when she saw David come into her room as she said “Thank you for giving me the chance to live.”
Since these fateful trips to the hospital, the David Ortiz Children’s Fund (DOCF) has been dedicated to raising funds that enable children in the Dominican Republic and the Northeastern United States to have access to the pediatric critical care they need to live full, productive lives. Funds are raised through personal donations, public donations, corporate partnerships and fundraising events.
In 2008, David was awarded UNICEF’s Children’s Champion Award, an honor for individuals who strive to help reach the day when zero children die from preventable causes . In 2009, the DOCF extended its life saving mission to David’s new home of Boston and formed an official partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital for Children. In 2011, David Ortiz won the Roberto Clemente Award for his commitment to the community and his understanding of the value in helping others.
To date, the David Ortiz Children’s Fund has raised approximately $1.5 million in an effort to combat life threatening pediatric illnesses.