This Thanksgiving: Honduran Boy Thankful to Peoria for the Ultimate Gift - Life-saving Heart Surgery

Surgery Today at Children's Hospital of Illinois Gives Boy a Second Chance at Life

Until recently, Jesus Daniel Ramos Mejia and his mother had no reason to observe the American holiday known as Thanksgiving. But now the two grateful Hondurans will celebrate this season with more zeal than most.

Thanks to the help of a caring Peoria community, 14-month-old Jesus Daniel was brought thousands of miles from his home to receive life-saving heart surgery.

Samaritan's Purse brought Jesus Daniel, his mother and an interpreter to the U.S. for treatment through its Children's Heart Project, coordinating community efforts with Children's Hospital of Illinois in Peoria, the Groveland Missionary Church and a local host family.

This morning the boy is underwent his life-saving surgery with hopes of recovering and celebrating Thanksgiving with a new community of friends in Peoria.

"The mother is so thankful and appreciative to come to America and receive such a gift," said Nina Butler, part of the family hosting Jesus Daniel and his mother while in the Peoria area.  "The community here is just amazing. So many people have donated baby items, brought food and shared a part in welcoming this family. This is what Thanksgiving is all about." 

The Children's Heart Project, a project of international relief organization Samaritan's Purse, has brought more than 700 children to North America to receive life-saving heart surgery and treatments currently unavailable in their countries. The project matches children suffering from congenital heart defects with U.S. doctors and hospitals who donate their services and facilities. Without such medical assistance, many of these children would die.


While working in Bosnia in 1997, Samaritan’s Purse found many children suffering from congenital heart defects who could not be adequately treated because the country's ethnic war had damaged hospitals and equipment and forced many doctors to flee. After contacting a hospital in the U.S. that agreed to donate medical care, Samaritan's Purse arranged for the first child to undergo what is often routine surgery in the U.S. Since, the project has moved beyond Bosnia into Honduras, Mongolia, Bolivia and Uganda with future plans to expand into other areas of the world where treatment is unavailable.

Headed by Franklin Graham, Samaritan’s Purse is currently working in 100 countries providing relief and aid to victims of war, natural disaster, famine and disease.