Many Give To Make A Gift Of Life

Aurita is photographed with Interact club members at St. Francis Hospital.

It takes a community to deliver on a promise and that is what Manhasset does so well. A special little girl from Kosovo was able to receive the gift of life through the charity of the Manhasset schools and the Interact Club, the Kiwanis Club of Manhasset Port Washington, the Manhasset Rotary and the Manhasset Chamber of Commerce. Seven-year old Aurita received life saving heart surgery through St. Francis Hospital under the skillful hands of surgeon Dr. Sean Levchuck.

“She is good for about 150 years,” said Levchuck. “After that, she’s on her own.” Levchuk has saved hundreds of children through the Rotary’s Gift of Life Program.

Aurita came to the U.S. on April 4 with her dad Arianit and were graciously hosted at Ronald McDonald House in New Hyde Park before her surgery which took place on April 17. During this time, a whirlwind of tests, as well as, guest appearances occurred with her sponsors. The Interact Club, who have sponsored Gift of Life children for the past few years, were thrilled to Skype with Aurita and then meet her in person.

During her time here, the students from the Interact Club have been entertaining Aurita and her father non-stop. The students said Aurita was shy at first but began opening up when they took her to eat at Villa Milano’s, as well as, to Build-A-Bear in Roosevelt Field and to Bar Beach, where she saw the bay for the first time in her life. She was amazed by the waves and so excited to write her name in the sand.

The students used their phones to communicate with Aurita through Google translator. At the welcome breakfast at Manhasset Secondary School on April 15, Aurita met Anisa Ahmetha, an eighth-grader who is fluent in Albanian. Ahmeda served as the 7-year-old’s translator, telling students and faculty that Aurita misses her two younger brothers, thought her flight to the U.S. was good but long, and that she loves hanging out with her new American friends.

The Kiwanis Club hosted Aurita and her dad at their semi-monthly meeting at Port Washington Yacht Club. Feti Sadiker, owner of Toscanini’s on Main Street in Port Washington and a member of Kiwanis and the Gift of Life International organization, brought in Gift of Life founder Robbie Donno to speak to the club and the program.

Members of the Interact Club were also invited to watch the surgery as it was taking place at St. Francis Hospital. It was an amazing experience. Christina Barrera, the teacher sponsor of Club Interact invited Aurita and her father to join her family for Easter dinner and to participate in the family’s annual Easter Egg Hunt.

Donno founded “Gift of Life” 36 years ago. It is an international organization, helping children throughout the world with heart problems get access to life-saving surgery.

—Additional reporting by K. Wummer

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Elizabeth Johnson is former editor of Manhasset Press and Manhasset Press Magazine. Growing up in nearby Garden City and attending New York University, she is well-versed in the locale and knowledgeable about the beat she covers. Her community involvement is extensive and includes the Manhasset SCA, Kiwanis International, Manhasset Chamber of Commerce, St. Mary’s Church, and various civic and local charitable organizations. Curious by nature, her travels, community service, love of the arts as well as local sports give her the inside view to unique content. During her time at Anton, she has received several awards from the New York Press Association and the Press Club of LI, including the coveted "Best Community Newspaper" several years in a row.


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