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La Liga de Las Americas

Findlay fundraiser for children of Central America highlights top aides to El Salvador’s First Lady Ana Ligia de Saca

By Alan Abrams
La Prensa Senior Correspondent


There’s an old show business adage that accidents happen, but the show goes on. And it is being proven in Findlay, Ohio this Saturday at the 10th annual fundraiser for Children’s Wishing Star.


Up until last week, the community was abuzz with the news that the First Lady of El Salvador—Ana Ligia de Saca—was flying into Findlay to personally thank supporters of the non-profit organization that has provided a safe haven and frequently medical treatment for thousands of children from throughout Central America.


Ana Ligia de Saca is the wife of El Salvadorian President Tony Saca. And she has been active in the Universal Birth Registration campaign [see: http://www.writemedown.org/news/elsalvador/ and related story on page 2 of La Prensa.]


But then the word came that the First Lady had injured her leg in an accident and was unable to travel. But she delegated several of her top aides—María Mercedes Rivera, Carolina Paniagua, and Evelyn Quintellia—to represent her at the event. They will attend the Lucky Star Night event along with Alba Nubia Arevalo, the director of the Children’s Wishing Star home in San Salvador.


Children's Wishing Star was organized by Stan and Pat Kujawa, the owners of Findlay Ford Lincoln-Mercury, Inc. The Kujawas have adopted two children from El Salvador, daughters Caroline, 13, and Annie, 11. As Stan Kujawa puts it, “We wanted to give something back to the country where we received our two special gifts, the children we were able to adopt as infants.”


Kujawa modestly insists, “All the credit should go to my wife because she really organized it from the start.” He explains that a few years after Caroline was adopted, the Kujawas met with the then-First Lady of El Salvador to discuss the need for a faculty to house the children who were coming for treatment to the Hospital Nacional de Niños, the 300-bed Benjamin Bloom Hospital, the largest pediatric facility in San Salvador serving a regional population of two million children.


The Kujawas were able to acquire a nearby building and sent in volunteer teams from Ohio to revitalize and fix up the facility. Children’s Wishing Star pays El Salvador a dollar a year for the lease on the property.


“Every penny we raise goes to the director and is used to maintain the home,” says Kujawa. “Over the last ten years, close to 2,000 children have stayed in the home. Many of the children are ill and there is often no room for them at the hospital. They need a place to stay in the interim.”


Pat Kujawa makes three trips a year to El Salvador and Stan makes at least one. “The facility has a lot of brightly colored walls, and over the years, when a child leaves we have him or her put their handprint on the wall along with their name and the date of their leaving. We hope that the children will come back here as adults and that they will remember this home,” says Stan Kujawa.


Children's Wishing Star has brought some of the children most desperately requiring immediate medical treatment to the U.S., including a young girl with a heart problem who was living in Bowling Green and underwent successful heart surgery at the University of Michigan.


Another 12-year-old boy whose cancer in his hand was so advanced that amputation was being discussed as the only remedy was successfully treated pro bono at Children’s Hospital in Toledo and at a hospital in Washington, D.C. Children’s Wishing Star paid for the trip of the child and his mother to the United States. As Kujawa put it, “It was a case of giving a hand to save a hand.”

Kujawa says that the organization sends a child to the U.S. for treatment at least once a year, but the majority of the hospital treatments are not performed pro bono.


Kujawa is active in the District 6600 Rotary Club of Northwest Ohio and was a driving force behind organizing the Northwest Ohio's Rotary MESA (Medical Equipment Services Abroad) program in the early 1980s. The organization currently maintains a warehouse in Findlay and collects medical supplies that it regularly ships to Central America.


In addition, the Findlay Rotary club also ships containers of goods and services to El Salvador including a recent gift of 280 brand-new wheelchairs. A group of 24 Findlay residents went down to El Salvador at their own expense to distribute the supplies.


 Recently, Pat Kujawa began a program to provide food for the families of 27 AIDS victims in El Salvador. “These are among the most desperate cases because their parents are dying of AIDS,” says Kujawa.


 It is a continuation of the Nutrition for Niños program she began five years ago to provide formula and other foods for the many children who suffer from malnutrition.


Children’s Wishing Star has also assisted in the adoption of ten other children from El Salvador.


“This program all started with one little girl,” says Pat Kujawa about her daughter Caroline. “When we went down to get her, we saw the plight of the people right after the Civil War. There were children in the streets with missing limbs from land mines. There were children begging at the airports. There was so much poverty. And that’s what motivated my husband and me to make a difference.”


The Lucky Star Night Event “Winter Tropical Celebration” will be held at Findlay Ford Lincoln-Mercury, Inc. beginning at 5 p.m. on Sat. March 4. Tickets are $60 and can be reserved by calling (419) 425-2345. All monies from the fundraiser go direct to helping the children of El Salvador.


Each ticket has a chance to win one of ten $100 bills and a grand prize of $5,000. Entertainment will be provided by Findlay's award winning Steel Drum Band.


Findlay Ford Lincoln-Mercury Inc is located on County Road 99 in Findlay, just seconds from the exit on I-75 North or South.  








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