Batting for the Heart

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Legendary cricketer Sunil Gavaskar, left, with Heart 2 Heart Foundation Trustee and Director Arvind Thiagarajan, speaking at the Aug. 16, 2019, event in New Jersey. (Photo courtesy of the organizers)

Legendary cricketer Sunil Gavaskar hits it out of the park on U.S. tour to raise funds for children’s free surgeries

For nearly 20 years, from the 1970s to the late 1980s, Sunil Gavaskar was the heartthrob of Indian cricket. Now he speaks at public forums to keep every child’s heart throbbing through the Heart to Heart Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to saving the lives of little ones born with congenital heart defects by providing free pediatric cardiac surgeries. He describes his work as chair of the board of governors of H2H, as “My new innings.”

All proceeds from his tour in the U.S. will go towards the H2H effort, according to the website, h2h.foundation. And it is a rigorous tour during which, according to the Press Trust of India quoting from an H2H news release, Gavaskar even managed a photo-op with President Donald Trump Aug. 23, in New York at the Trump Bedminster Golf Course.

The www.h2h.foundation website shows a heavy schedule laid out for the 70-year old cricketer flitting from the East Coast to the West Coast and back again – starting at Royal Albert’s Palace in Fords, N.J. on Aug. 16, to Norcross, Georgia, Aug. 18, Milpitas, California on Sept. 7, Seattle, Washington the next day, followed by Louisville, Kentucky on Sept. 12. After that on Sept. 13, in Indianapolis, Indiana, then Fort Wayne Sept. 14, also in Indiana, ending the tour in Chicago Sept. 15.

Even 30 years after leaving the cricket field, Gavaskar has remained on the pitch as a commentator for the sport he is so passionate about. As a motivational speaker he addresses issues of leadership, perseverance, personality development, mentoring, and emotional intelligence, and he did so during his Aug. 16, event in Royal Albert’s Palace in Fords, New Jersey. These also serve to raise funds for children’s surgeries in India.

According to H2H, in just two stops, New Jersey and Georgia, Gavaskar raised enough funds for surgeries of some 230 children.

Those who came to listen to him, praised Gavaskar’s effort and left with cricket bats and other memorabilia signed by the celebrity sportsman and inspiring leader.

“There are over 36,000 children waiting for a free heart surgery in the next two years. We are targeting to support 5,000 free heart surgeries this year, increasing each year thereafter,” said Trustee & Director of H2H Foundation Arvind Thiagarajan. The cost of running these hospitals would run into several millions of dollars each year. To help meet this urgent need, Sunil Gavaskar is travelling to different cities in US to spread awareness of this noble cause.

Some of the motivating ideas Gavaskar showered his audience with in the New Jersey event included —

“When I was failing, I would look at how I failed, why I failed … How I could, maybe, stop playing some of the shots, … ”

“You have to be brutally honest about,” analyzing one’s mistakes. Gavaskar said he would talk to his players and his coaches to figure out mistakes.

“I tried to learn how to avoid making mistakes … ”

He gave examples from the cricket field to bolster his conclusions from life lessons.

It is never going to be easy Gavaskar explained as the audience listened raptly.

“The iconic batsman participated in multiple fundraising events in New Jersey and Atlanta which raised funds for over 230 surgeries,” said a press release from H2H quoted in the PTI report. According to H2H, one congenital heart disease surgery costs around $1,200. Multiply the two figures and the total raised from just two appearances equals $276,000.

From left, Sridhar Chilla, Dr. Sudha Parikh, Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh, chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media and ITV Gold, legendary cricketer Sunil Gavaskar, and Arvind Thiagarajan, trustee and director of H2H Foundation. (Photo: Raja Bhatty)

Hundreds attended the Royal to engage in a freewheeling conversation with the cricket legend, among them Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh, chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media and ITV Gold. And without fail, Gavaskar delivered – sharing interesting and thought-provoking anecdotes from his career and how he came to make decisions in his professional and personal life, that stood him in good stead.

He also praised the Cricket Control Board for enabling younger players to get into the beautiful game. Anil Lalwani called Gavaskar, “inspirational” and said he and his wife would do “everything we can”.

Dr. Parikh, who also spoke at the event, praised Gavaskar’s efforts and said he would make sure to publicize H2H and the work of the cricketer in all four weekly publications and on his 2/7 television station, ITV Gold.

During this trip to the U.S., Gavaskar is doing commentaries on the ongoing Test series between India and the West Indies, taking place in the country.

“Gavaskar utilised the time between the limited overs and the Test series of the West Indies tour in America to create awareness for the Heart to Heart foundation (h2h). This is in collaboration with the Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Hospital, Kharghar, Navi Mumbai which is providing free surgeries for children with congenital heart defects,” the press release said.

At the New Jersey event, Sharad Kumar Shah, president of the highly regarded non-profit – Share and Care – told ITV Gold he discussed the modalities of a partnership with H2H Foundation on the projects and initiatives of that organization.

The H2H Foundation funds pediatric cardiac surgeries in collaboration with pediatric cardiac centers of excellence across developing countries, according to its website. “H2H Foundation envisions to address the global burden of congenital heart defects by supporting international organizations that work towards this shared vision of addressing the entire spectrum of Prevention, Screening, and Cure,” the organization adds.

According to H2H, every year approximately 300,000 children are born in India with CHD and more than 25% die even before their first birthday. With India seeing more than 250+ children dying every day because of this heart defect, it remains a world capital of CHD. Most of the children diagnosed with CHD come from families that are daily wage workers and cannot afford the more than $5,000 required for surgeries.

To combat this problem, H2H Foundation in partnership with Sai Sanjeevani Hospitals, has opened 3 hospitals in Maharashtra (Navi Mumbai) , Chhattisgarh (Naya Raipur) and Haryana (Palwal) to provide absolutely free pediatric cardiac surgeries to anyone irrespective of cast, creed, religion, nationality or financial status, the Foundation says. The first hospital started functioning in 2012 and since then, the 3 hospitals have performed nearly 10,000 surgeries and catheter interventions absolutely free of cost.

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