The realization that he could help, had to help, occurred six years ago. Red Sox slugger David Ortiz made a charity appearance at a hospital in his native Dominican Republic, and he was dismayed by the lengthy waiting list of children in need of lifesaving heart surgeries.
“The fact that these kids could spend a majority of their life in and out of hospitals or getting treatment, but were still able to greet me with a big smile, that’s what touched me,’’ he wrote via e-mail. “I wanted to take all my blessings and figure out a way to keep them smiling.’’
He created the David Ortiz Children’s Fund, which has raised some $2 million that has paid for more than 200 heart surgeries in the Dominican Republic. He has also expanded the fund to support pediatric care in New England.
Major League Baseball recognized Ortiz’s dedication to children’s causes in October by bestowing on him the league’s Clemente Award, in honor of the late Roberto Clemente, a 12-time All-Star who died in a plane crash in 1972 while delivering supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
Ortiz is the second Red Sox player in a row to win the award: Pitcher Tim Wakefield was recognized last year for his work on children’s causes.
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