"Whenever you provide an open-heart surgery for one of these kids, it changes the whole family's life situation," said Ortiz. "It's an unbelievable change. I started doing this a few years back. I was doing it because I love kids, and I love to see the smile on children's faces. I had no idea, seriously, what I was walking into."
When Ortiz walked into a hospital a few years back and saw some children who were in desperate need of open-heart surgeries, he instantly had a new cause that he is been working hard toward since.
"I remember the first time David came into the hospital. I was very touched to see a guy who was so big and so strong fall into the arms of a baby, basically, crying," said Nelva Pelaez, the secretary of Heart Care Dominica. "He couldn't stand to see their pain. I was truly touched at that moment. I said to myself, 'This is a genuine guy, and he will come back and help more children,' and he did."
In an effort to raise funds for more surgeries, the David Ortiz Celebrity Golf Tournament kicked off last December at beautiful Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic. Ortiz had quite the traveling roster of guests, including Ryan Howard, Andres Galarraga, Tim Wakefield, Torii Hunter, Sean Casey, Justin Masterson, Luis Tiant, Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, Alex Rodriguez, Jim Rice, Carlos Pena, Jimmy Rollins, Pedro Martinez, Placido Polanco, Mariano Rivera, Vladimir Guerrero and Boston Bruins legend Bobby Orr.
Ortiz expects this year's event -- which will take place from Dec. 3-6 -- to be even more of a success. Those who are interested in attending should go to www.davidortizchildrensfund.org.
"Last year, when we were having the tournament, a whole bunch of the kids that I saw at the hospital struggling, they came out as a group on to the golf course, and I was looking at them and looking at their parents, how they were jumping around, running around, doing things they weren't able to [before]," said Ortiz. "Some of them had their moms dealing with them 24/7. You can see their moms looking different, because they can work now or do different things because their child is healthy and able to do different things. That kind of touched me. I'm going to try to do this as long as I can because we have kids coming out with this on a daily basis -- every day. The families don't have the financial possibilities to do these surgeries."
Mass. General is pleased to be able to join such a worthy cause with one of Boston's biggest sports stars.
"David's commitment to kids doesn't start with his on-field performance," said Slavin. "He wants to make an even bigger difference in the lives of the most seriously ill children in this area. This type of commitment really demonstrates who David really is -- his values, his compassion, his empathy for other people."