Hailing from none other than Arrochar, local celebrity Elissa Montanti is working hard to improve the lives of children all around the world.
It all started in 1997, after reading the poignant words of Kenan Malkic, a child who lost both arms and one leg in the Bosnian civil war. “God and all merciful people to help me getting prosthetics," he pleaded, and Elissa could not ignore. Elissa faced a period of depression following the loss of her relatives, that left her confused and lost. However, she was inspired by the struggle of children in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a province of former Yugoslavia, during their bloody civil war. She initially appealed to the United Nations ambassador to Bosnia asking to send supplies to children of the region, a province of the former Yugoslavia. However, the ambassador showed her the letter and she realized what work would be the most impact for these kids. Montanti lobbied airlines, hospitals, physicians, and prosthesis companies to help in her project to get this young boy to the U.S and fitted for new limbs. Her dream finally came to fruition. Kenan Malkic, and his mother, soon flew into John F. Kennedy Airport and were welcomed with open arms. For four months, they stayed at Elissa's home, during which time Kenan received new arms, a new leg, and a rejuvenated life.
Shortly thereafter, Elissa founded the Global Medical Relief Fund, a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization, dedicated to altruism. Its mission is to aid children have lost the use of limbs or eyes, have been severely burned, or have suffered other effects of war, natural disaster, or illness. A 501(c)3 organization, GMRF is bolstered by private grants and public donations. Since its humble beginnings in Montanti's Arrochar one-bedroom townhouse, GMRF has brought more than 150 children to the U.S. from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia for surgery, treatment, and prosthetic limb and eye fittings. These patients receive free housing and ongoing medical care until the age of 21. Her sponsorships span the world, including Bosnia, China, El Salvador, Haiti, Indonesia, Iraq, Kosovo, Liberia, Mexico, Nepal, Niger, Pakistan, the Congo, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, and Libya. Many of these regions are conflict-torn, which can further compromise accessibility to quality pediatric care and prostheses. Montanti has since expanded from her walk-in closet to a major project. Her special team works hard to "make miracles happen." All this is possible with the help of various medical centers, including the Shriners Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, Boston, and Eerie, which offers surgery, prosthetics, and rehabilitation for the children, as well as Long Island Jewish Medical Center; the Long Island Plastic Surgery Group; Winthrop-University Hospital; Columbia Presbyterian Hospital; and, Ocular Prosthetics, Inc.
After the healing they experience right here in New York and on Staten Island, Montanti believes that every Global Medical Relief sponsor becomes an "Ambassador" who returns to their home country, with a rejuvenated life, mended body, and an experience of the best America has to offer. After seeing the suffering faced by the men, women, and children of the countries she visits, she insists that charity is much broader than the work of one person.
“Healing wounds, easing pain and putting back together a broken child is its own reward,” she says. “What more important mission is there than aiding innocent, victimized children?”
Elissa currently resides in Staten Island with Kenan, that first Bosnian patient, who is now 28 and like a son to her, and Shilo, their dog. She is impassioned by the arts, including writing poetry and music, receiving recognition for her work from the American Poetry Society. Recently, she has collaborated with partners Dawson/Walter to create the touching anthem for her foundation “Back Together Again.” A portion of the song's proceeds will be donated to the Global Medical Relief Fund.
Elissa Montanti is also the author of the book "I'll Stand By You," which chronicles the humble beginnings of GMRF, as well as Elissa's own story
We, here at Tom Crimmins, are inspired by of the vast accomplishments of our fellow Staten Islanders. If you, too, are interested in all this borough has to offer, contact our office at 304 Manor Rd via phone at 718-370-3200, or on our website www.tomcrimminsrealty.com