Gold Hearts NY, a student-led club originating in Jericho, supports Peruvian children with cancer. They have carried out this good work for over two years now, having begun in 2021.
Anjali Anand, a senior at Jericho High School, who is the founder and president of the club, recalls seeing healthcare difficulties as she visited family in Peru. Her aunt was diagnosed with a rare type of arthritis, and when Anjali went with her aunt to the hospital, she witnessed first-hand the struggles children face there.
Anjali said, “There’s not enough for these patients at these hospitals to provide what they need. It’s really unfortunate and that has always made me want to do something. At the age of 5, I remember telling my aunt, ‘I want to help these people. I’m going to help these people.’”
Later, Anjali began contributing to a Peruvian charity named Corazones Dorados, which also aims to uplift children with cancer. Anjali was helping a boy obtain medication to overcome cancer, and though he ultimately passed away, his battle against cancer was not in vain – it inspired Anjali to form Gold Hearts.
“I was really hit by it [the passing of the boy]. I was supporting him. I was happy. I was seeing pictures of him getting better. And when he died because of a lack of medication that I know that people here could afford, I knew that people here could have helped him. Even me, I think I could have helped more,” said Anjali.
Ever since, Anjali has been taking an active role in care for children with cancer. She said “I go to Peru often, and I got involved there. I went to the hospital. I told them that I want to help and now I maintain my relationship with those kids [dealing with cancer in Peru]. I visit them every year. And it’s really fulfilling.”
To help children on a larger scale, Anjali formed Gold Hearts when she was a freshman at Jericho High School three years ago. Gold Hearts’ objective is to provide an array of support to children with cancer. For Gold Hearts, it is important to give both financial and emotional support.
Understanding the needs of the children, Gold Hearts has been fundraising for them. They had sold macarons before and have raffled off iPads, a TV and even Islanders tickets. All of the proceeds helped the children in the most critical ways, such as buying their medications and providing transportation to and from the hospital. Gold Hearts works with bus companies in Peru to run routes from the biggest hospitals in Lima, the capital, to the suburbs, where many of the children live. Additionally, Gold Hearts sends much-needed blankets, clothes and mattresses.
In addition to financial support, Gold Hearts recognizes the importance of keeping children’s morale up during the difficult time of cancer. Last spring, they organized a bracket-making event.
Anjali said, “We had kids from the club make bracelets for the kids in Peru and they had motivational words on the bracelets like love, peace, happiness, things like that. And we gave that to the kids in the hospitals.”
Gold Hearts works with multiple organizations in Peru to make sure everything goes directly to the kids. Peruvian charity Corazones Dorados – which means golden hearts in Spanish and is the inspiration for the name – helps oversee Gold Hearts’ donations. While this is true, Gold Hearts also regularly checks in with the children.
Anjali said, “We team up with an organization called Corazones Dorados and we maintain contact with the hospitals through them. But I do personally go in myself and see everything that has been donated, everything that has been done. I have family members who are in Peru that buy everything for us. We send them the money; they basically buy all the things needed – the medications, blankets, everything like that.”
What makes Gold Hearts special for Anjali is seeing the kids’ faces light up when they receive donations. The joy of the kids gets Anjali through difficult moments. “The children: I think that’s my favorite part. The children are extremely thankful. They can’t even believe it,” said Anjali.
“When I think I am so stressed, I think about them and I know it’s not [that bad]. I look up to them even though they think that I’m doing something crazy [giving support through Gold Hearts]. I look up to them.”
Recently, Gold Hearts has expanded their goals to help Hispanic communities locally. With Hispanic Heritage Month in September, Gold Hearts has been participating in a number of events. They had a table at Sumaq, a Peruvian food festival held at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City. Also, Gold Hearts is in the planning phase of blood drives for Hispanic communities, where healthcare professionals will share some words too.
Gold Hearts always welcomes new members; high school students interested are encouraged to join. The best way to contact them is through instagram @goldheartsny or their website https://www.goldhearts.org/.