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When Yuki Kotani’s father came to New York from Japan to receive a heart transplant, she was by his side constantly at New York-Presbyterian. And yet she counted herself one of the lucky ones.
“I was running in and out after work but at least I had a comfortable bed to go home to at night and recharge,” said Yuki, 27. “I literally saw people sleeping, eating and living in waiting rooms for days at a time.”
“For a lot of these patients, this is their last chance. They’ve drained all their money, either on the surgery or just to get to New York for the surgery,” said Yuki. “And then they have to stay in a hotel — and hotel prices in New York are just ridiculous.”
Yuki met Michelle Javian, also 27, whose father had also recently had heart surgery, and together the two came up with the idea for Harboring Hearts.
“There is Ronald McDonald House for kids, there is Hope Lodge for adults with cancer. But there are really no affordable housing options for heart patients who need it,” Yuki explained. “If families of a heart patient could have a comfortable place to stay for just one night, even if they come in from as nearby as Long Island, it would make a big difference.”
Starting a nonprofit when you’re under 30 is not easy.
“We started right when the financial crisis hit, so it was hard,” Yuki admits. But they focused on small donors and young professionals, holding golf outings and cocktail parties to raise money.
Right now, they’ve been able to help one family at a time. For example, a young mother from Trinidad recently came to New York because her twin 3-year-old boys both needed heart transplants.
“She spent all her money to come here, so she was sleeping in the same room as her children at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital,” said Yuki. Later, the family ended up in a homeless shelter.
Harboring Hearts raised $2,000 to help get the family into an apartment in Queens, and continues to pay their rent, food and phone bills.
“We’re starting small; we’re waiting for the bigger donors to come.”
Harboring Hearts will hold a winter cocktail party at the Rubin Museum of Art in Chelsea on Feb. 24 from 9-11 p.m.
» NY Pops will perform, with an open bar, hors d’œuvres and desserts.
» VIP ticket-holders should arrive at 8:30 for a tour of the museum.
» Tickets are $100; VIP for $250. Buy tickets at www.harboringhearts.org