Imagine a family living in a developing country. Poverty is pervasive. Perhaps there are a few small children in the family, probably a house in need of repairs. Despite the lack of luxuries—and necessities—the children are loved by their parents and community. Perhaps one child is born with a genetic defect. Perhaps one child is suffering from a rare illness.  The parents, of course, are worried—not only for their child’s wellbeing, but for how they will get the child medical care. On average, a sick child’s guardian will hike five miles with their child on their back or in their arms to get to the nearest doctor. It’s hard to imagine, especially here in Malibu where just about every convenience is a drive, call or click away.

The nonprofit Mending Kids that provides critical care to unserved impoverished children has had a large presence in Malibu for more than a decade. The charity has a unique fundraising event coming up on Oct. 13 called “Hike to Mend.”

Mending Kids

A Mending Kids patient smiles while undergoing medical treatment.

The hike symbolizes the distance a parent in a developing country has to travel mostly on foot carrying their child to gain access to surgical care. 

“We’re honoring those families and their stories,” Mending Kids board member and Malibu resident Lori Beckwith said. In another way to emulate a parent’s struggle to get their child help, Mending Kids will supply backpacks filled with water bottles to signify the weight of a child. Of course, there will be plenty of water to drink on the hike as well.

Expect stations along the five-mile route illustrating the stories of some of the families who have benefitted from Mending Kids missions. Some families have traveled hundreds of miles to seek care. 

You’ll see Joel’s story. His aunt hitch hiked with the youngster 700 miles from Mwanza to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to get her nephew to a life-saving cardiac surgery. The two made it to the Mending Kids’ surgical center just in time—arriving the fourth day of the five-day humanitarian mission. 

“Instead of turning Joel away, the surgeon stayed an extra day so they could operate on him and her big effort to save him wouldn’t be in vain,” said Beckwith, co-chair of the event.

Beckwith and her daughter, Alana, have participated in a couple of missions with Mending Kids in Guatemala. Volunteers assist during children’s pre-op—making the children comfortable—and with recovery. Mending Kids also helps find accommodations for family members who can’t afford a place to stay while their child is recuperating. 

“The point is these kids and families go to extreme measures. Indigenous families that live remotely may have other children to care for and have to miss work in order to get their sick children critical care. They take buses, hitch hike, ask people for rides to go hundreds of miles in order to get to our clinics,” Beckwith elaborated. 

Mending Kids

Medical professionals during a cardiac mission in Ethiopia

As of 2018, Mending Kids has treated 4,075 children since its inception in 2005. This year, 85 children have been treated by the organization. The group has four more surgical missions planned by year’s end including in Honduras, Guatemala and Tanzania.

Although Mending Kids is known for its international work, Beckwith noted, “We’re expanding our U.S. missions. There are so many children who are uninsured or underinsured in this country or the surgeries they need are determined not medically necessary. They’re considered cosmetic. 

“With deformities, kids get bullied or teased. It’s horrible for them,” Beckwith continued. “Unfortunately, insurance doesn’t cover the multiple surgeries required. Our surgeons provide these services at our hometown missions here in Los Angeles and New York. This part of our organization is growing rapidly.” 

Hike to Mend takes place on Sunday, Oct. 13, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Topanga State Park, Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway at the end of Reseda Boulevard in Tarzana.

Mending Kids Flyer

“There’s nothing more gratifying than being with the children before and after their surgeries,” Beckwith concluded. “The anesthesiologists say they use less anesthesia on the kids when we’re here comforting them. We wheel them out to their parents after surgery and they are so grateful, but what they’ve done is so incredible to get their child this care. These surgeries are life altering for the child and their families.”

To make a donation or sponsor a hiker, go to MendingKids.org.

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