miraclefeet co-sponsored a huge charity event in India last week along with CURE International India Trust, our partner organization there. It was the first ever race of its kind in Delhi. The event was called Footsteps4Good and its proceeds will benefit 17 different NGOs working in India.
Check out some photos from this event below, which more than 5,000 people ran and walked. What an inspiring day! Big thanks for Santosh George, Executive Director for CURE International India Trust, for getting miraclefeet involved in this terrific event.
CURE clubfoot clinic staff members at the race.
Runners waiting to start.
John Abraham of Bollywood fame is Cure’s new spokesperson, helping build awareness about clubfoot across India.
We love the miraclefeet t-shirts!
We are proud to announce that Kunal Premnarayen, a clubfoot survivor and former Wake Forest University tennis player turned successful entrepreneur in India, has joined miraclefeet's board of directors. Kunal’s story of having prevailed over this disability to become a star athlete is one that will inspire children and parents all over the world. “We are thrilled that Kunal has agreed to lend his support to miraclefeet by joining our board,” said Chesca Colloredo-Mansfeld, executive director of miraclefeet. “His personal experience with clubfoot in India, combined with his passionate desire to spread awareness about the disability, and his success as both an athlete and a business person, provides the miraclefeet board of directors with an extremely valuable additional perspective.”
Kunal was treated with a method similar to Ponseti when he was born in India in 1977. He has clear and vivid memories of wearing braces and steel boots to correct his clubfoot until he was nearly eight years old, but this did not stop him from becoming an athlete. Kunal credits much of this athletic success to his 92 year old grandfather/mentor, a tennis professional in his own right who played in both Wimbledon and the French Open and became the number two tennis player in India. He helped Kunal become the 5th highest ranked tennis player in India, despite being born with this disability. Because of his talent, Kunal had the opportunity to move to Florida to attend tennis academies in high school. From there, he was offered a scholarship at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he was a star tennis player from 1994 – 1997.
When asked about his own experience with clubfoot, Kunal is impressively positive: “Becoming an athlete got me through the tough times. Sports are life-changing for someone who has had a hard youth or who has survived bullying because of a disability. For me, being an athlete was the way for me to find my personality and stand up to people. Truly, I may have gone into a shell if I had not become an athlete.” He elaborated about his decision to join the miraclefeet board, “When I learned about miraclefeet, I didn’t just want to be a donor, although I knew that was important. I wanted to make an even more notable difference – I want to look back at my life and feel that I have done something that is very satisfying and that helps many people.” In fact, Kunal and his wife Kavita asked their wedding guests to donate to CURE International India and miraclefeet in lieu of giving wedding gifts when they were married in 2011, thereby raising nearly $10,000 for the organizations collectively.
Kunal says he has thrived because of the support of many people over his lifetime. He recently asked his mom if she and his dad ever thought he would live a normal life when he was born with severe bilateral clubfoot. She wasn’t sure, but she pushed through her fear, trusted their doctor and relied on her faith. When his clubfoot started getting better, that fear went away. He also talks about his wife as an inspiration, “She left a very successful corporate career in New York to move here with me and run an NGO that provided education to women in the slums of Mumbai. It is one thing to give your money, but it is truly another to dedicate your whole life to something you believe in. She shares my passion for miraclefeet, and we look forward to increasing access to treatment and awareness about clubfoot across India.”
Kunal recently attended a renovation celebration for a miraclefeet-supported clubfoot clinic in Mumbai at Wadia Hospital (see below), which we blogged about last month. He said this about that event, “It really touched me because I had gone through this treatment myself. I met every single child and parent before I left there that day because the parents wanted to know how I had fared after my own treatment and what they should do to make things better for their kids. I reminded them not to stop treatment just when they think things are going okay – clubfoot can reverse and it is very important to be consistent with treatment.” He said to the crowd, “I was born with both of my feet facing the other way, and yet I became a highly successful athlete. Never lose hope.”
miraclefeet has been able to raise over $3 million since it started operating three years ago, and is now supporting clubfoot clinics in 11 countries worldwide. Much of this funding has come from individuals and foundations attracted to the very compelling prospect of transforming the life of a child forever with a simple, inexpensive non-surgical treatment.
“miraclefeet has achieved remarkable success with a very small staff and board. The time is right for miraclefeet to add capacity and personal expertise as we continue to grow at a rapid rate. My own son, who was born with clubfoot, now plays tennis, and sees Kunal as one of his inspirations,” said Roger Berman, co-founder and chair of the miraclefeet board of directors.
miraclefeet co-founder Bridget with the managing director of CURE International India Trust
We often share stories and updates about the incredible children, parents, nurses and doctors we have met across the world. And we’ve even introduced you to several members of our office. But who is at work behind-the-scenes, actively setting a meaningful course for the future of clubfoot treatment?
Meet the men and women behind miraclefeet’s Board of Directors.
Twelve years ago, Roger Berman and Bridget Ryan Berman were worried when their son was born with clubfoot. Like many in the United States and around the world, they weren’t familiar with the Ponseti Method, at the time not widely known or practiced.
Fortunately, the Bermans quickly learned of the non-surgical Ponseti Method, pioneered by Dr. Ignacio Ponseti of the University of Iowa. With the careful attention of his doctor Joshua Hyman, newly trained in the Ponseti Method, the Berman’s infant son was successfully treated for clubfoot. Today, he walks, runs, plays multiple sports and is a healthy, active twelve-year old boy.
Roger and Bridget felt lucky that their child had access to safe, affordable and very effective treatment, and they asked themselves—why shouldn’t every child have access to the Ponseti Method? And their doctor Dr. Hyman wondered the same thing.
So together Roger, a veteran of the textile and manufacturing industries and current supply chain consultant for U.S. and Chinese retail companies; Bridget, CEO of Victoria’s Secret Direct; Josh Hyman, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, and Dr. Jose Morcuende, orthopedic surgeon and leading clubfoot expert from the University of Iowa, created miraclefeet. They were joined by Rodger Raderman, whose daughter was also successfully treated with the Ponseti Method. Rodger remains an advisor to the organization.
miraclefeet Co-founder Richard visiting the Wadia clinic in India
As miraclefeet has grown, so has the Board of Directors.
Chesca Colloredo-Mansfeld, who learned of the Ponseti Method while working at the Univeristy of Iowa, home of Dr. Ponseti, had also become interested in the issue of increasing access to treatment in developing countries. She connected with the group just as the miraclefeet plan was hatched and helped develop the implementation strategy. Chesca joined the Board when she became the miraclefeet Executive Director in 2011. Jennifer Tye, who lives in San Francisco and serves as the Associate Director of Genentech
miraclefeet wouldn’t be the same without its amazing interns. It’s time you get to know them!
Joss Warren, Intern, Indian Programs: University of North Carolina
Career Goal: I want to become a doctor and hopefully work overseas in some kind of medical and public health capacity.
Best part about interning with miraclefeet: My favorite part of interning with miraclefeet is how challenging the work is. I am constantly given tasks that are outside of my comfort zone and help to increase my range of abilities within the workplace. I am also learning a lot about what it takes to effectively manage a non profit organization, which is something that is relevant to my hopeful career path.
What’s Next: After college I am hoping to go to medical school and pursue a graduate degree in public health.
Mary Charles Hale, Intern, Social Media: North Carolina State University
Career Goal: In the most general answer possible, I hope to have a career that makes me happy and has a positive impact on the world. I love to write, I love to travel, and I love to laugh, so a career that combined all three would be great! I would be head over heels to end up in an organization like miraclefeet. Either that or become stage manager of Good Morning America.
Best part about interning with miraclefeet: I have two favorite parts—I couldn’t pick just one! First, the people. Chesca, Lauren and Leslie have all been so welcoming and are a really fun, caring and committed group of people to work with. The stories I have heard and the children I have learned about since interning with miraclefeet are the other best part. miraclefeet is doing incredible work around the world and getting to share stories like Jorgito’s and Melvin’s and Marli’s is a special job.
What’s Next: This year I plan on playing a lot of trivia, watching the Wolfpack win an NCAA Basketball Championship and finishing my senior year as an English major at NC State University.
Taylor Craig, Intern, Research and Outcomes: North Carolina State University
Career Goal: To work for an organization that promotes global health care and addresses health care needs around the world.
Best part about interning for miraclefeet: Being a part of a passionate team of professionals that work to improve the lives and create positive outcomes for families in low-income countries.
Whats next: Continue to raise awareness of the importance of health care around the world, continue to gain experience through internships and traveling before going onto graduate school for a Masters in Public Health.
A recently published article shed light about girls in Maharashtra State in India being named Nakushi, which means “unwanted” in a local language, Marathi. A district health officer said “So strong is the desire for a male child that these girls are called Nakushi, without any proper naming ceremony.”
For girls with clubfoot born into these situations, their futures can be grim. Many of the 222 girls named Nakushi in Maharashtra were born into poor families. For poor families, paying for clubfoot treatment is impossible. If left untreated, clubfoot can prevent children from walking and thus, going to school. They risk living their lives in shame and humiliation.
miraclefeet has launched a new clubfoot initiative in Maharashtra State India. miraclefeet targeted Maharashtra due to the very large population living in Mumbai as well the other major cities, and the very limited availability of proper clubfoot treatment in public hospitals. miraclefeet is working in Maharashtra through a joint venture with CURE International India Trust. The goal in Maharashtra is to initially establish clubfoot clinics in 7 public hospitals (or hospitals serving low income populations for free) with the expectation that over 250 children will be enrolled in the first 6 months.
To learn more about our program in Maharasthra, our other programs around the world, and how to help, visit our website.
Did you know that July is Make a Difference to a Child Month? Did you further know that miraclefeet believes that every month should be dedicated to enriching the lives of children? That’s why we work hard to ensure children in developing nations such as Brazil, Mexico, Nicaragua and India can walk normally and treat clubfoot with a non-invasive procedure using the Ponseti Method.
We have numerous stories about children who can now walk, run and play with their friends without the shame and stigma attached to clubfoot. A lot of these inspirational stories can be found on our website and we’d love to add more with your help. So how can you make a difference? Easy!
By giving to our Summer of Miracles Challenge you can help give the gift of walking to a child forever. You merely go online to our secure form and fill out the necessary information and hit send. It’s that easy. The money will be used to provide treatment to children, buy plaster and supplies for casting or for leg braces.
You can help children like Alino, Alan or Deborah who have already benefited from miraclefeet and its team of international doctors. Help make a difference in the life of a child this month and donate to miraclefeet today!