Pia leads day-long sports fundraiser for differently-abled children

Senator Pia S. Cayetano led about three hundred participants and volunteers, including very young children, in a day-long multi–sport event meant to raise funds to help differently abled children.

The fundraiser, called the “6th annual 12-hour multi–sport for a cause in memory of Gabriel,” was staged from six in the morning to six in the evening at the Alabang Country Club, Ayala Alabang Village, Muntinlupa City.

The event has been held annually since 2002 in memory of Gabriel Cayetano-Sebastian, the third and youngest child of Senator Cayetano and lawyer Butch Sebastian. Gabriel was only nine months old when he passed away in the year 2001 from complications of a rare chromosomal disorder called Trisomy 13.

This year’s sports events included the “Pinay In Action” women’s triathlon, the “Superkids” aquathlon and triathlon for children, a 5-km and 10-km fun run, and individual and corporate relays consisting of walking, running and biking.

At around noon, Cayetano took time out to greet beneficiaries of the event, a dozen children aged between one to two years, who were born with cleft lip and palate (locally called “bingot”).

The children, who came with their parents, were among the 59 beneficiaries who were successfully operated on this year with the help of the Gabriel SymphonyFoundation (GSF) and Australian volunteer-doctors of “Operation Rainbow.”

“I consider this event as the first birthday party which my son, Gabriel, never had. We hold this every year to remember him and celebrate how he continues to touch and change the lives of underprivileged children,” said the lady senator, who was joined in the day-long activity by her two daughters, Maxine, 13 and Nadine, 10.

Two volunteer-friends of Sen. Cayetano, Maiqui Dayrit and Joey Torres, completed an ‘Ironman’ distance to raise funds for their respective child-beneficiaries. The duo’s designated route (3.8-km swim, 180-km bike, and 42-km run) took them from Alabang to as far as Bacoor, Cavite throughout the day.

Dayrit, a veteran triathlete, has been doing an ironman for the annual event in the last four years and has so far raised an accumulative total of P600,000 for GSF.

Since 2004, the GSF has sponsored cleft lip and palate operations for 341 children at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) and 133 children at the General Miguel Malvar Hospital.

In addition, the GSF has funded the operation of 12 infants with of the Zugbuana Jaycees in Cebu, and 213 infants with the Rotary Club of Cagayan de Oro City.

The GSF likewise donated 14 hearing aides to hearing-impaired children in cooperation with the Philippine National Ear Institute and 16 artificial eyes to visually-impaired children in partnership with the non-government Parents Advocate for Visually Impaired Children (PAVIC).

One of the foundation’s newest beneficiaries is the Pediatric Neurosurgical and Craniofacial Operating Unit of the PGH. The new facility, the first of its kind in the country, performs delicate, and not to mention costly, operations on very young children with congenital malformations of the brain and spinal cord.

Since opening last April, the new pediatric surgery facility has done cranial and spinal operations on 124 indigent children suffering from serious congenital ailments like hydrocephalus, encephaloceles, and spina bifida.

Much improvement still needs to be done at new facility, however. It lacks air-conditioning, the instruments are still incomplete and regular budget for personnel staffing still very much depends on private donations.