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Can you believe it?! ForHearts is turning the big 4-0 this year. We are kicking off our 40th anniversary year by looking back on all we have accomplished and looking ahead to our next 40 years!

Journey through four decades of ForHearts, and see how making a difference for hearts in need has been at the heart of everything we have done since our beginning.

1984: ForHearts Worldwide is Established as Heartbeat International Worldwide

ForHearts Worldwide exists because of the vision of two men: Dr. Federico Alfaro and Dr. Henry D. McIntosh. The vision of providing life-saving cardiac care to underserved patients sparked in Dr. Alfaro when the Baylor University-educated cardiologist returned to his native Guatemala to practice and found himself treating a 17-year-old boy with a heart block. While the serious condition was treatable, the boy’s family could not afford the needed treatment, and this otherwise healthy boy died—ultimately because of the lack of medical resources.

Heartbroken by the number of poor patients who were dying due to the lack of access to care, Dr. Alfaro reached out to his alma mater and connected with his Cardiology professor, Dr. Henry D. McIntosh, former Chairman of Medicine at Baylor University. Together, the two brainstormed how to best provide cardiac care to patients in need. Dr. McIntosh proposed the idea of “gifting” used pacemakers and invited Dr. Alfaro to a stateside cardiology conference to receive six gifted devices.

The presentation of the gifted devices at the conference in 1982 brought the issue to the attention of cardiac professionals and experts. A Rotarian attending the conference then arranged for a pacemaker manufacturer to donate more than 400 pacemakers and for Rotary International to ultimately provide a $250,000 grant to grow the pacemaker gifting program.

On October 18, 1984, Dr. McIntosh formally launched ForHearts Worldwide, then called Heartbeat International Worldwide (HBI), in collaboration with The Watson Clinic in Lakeland, Florida where he practiced, Rotary International, pacemaker manufacturers, and the American College of Cardiology.

Just 16 months later, Heartbeat International Worldwide had established pacemaker “banks” (the forerunners of our International Heart Centers) in 16 countries.

With Heartbeat off and running, Dr. McIntosh decided to retire from his leadership role in 1986, passing the baton to Benedict S. Maniscalco, MD, cardiologist and founder of St. Joseph’s Heart Institute in Tampa.

Growing in Our First Decade as an Organization

In the 1990s, Heartbeat International grew by leaps and bounds, hitting crucial milestones as a developing nonprofit organization.

The growth started with a move to the city that is still the headquarters for our global operations—Tampa, Florida. In 1992, Dr. Maniscalco moved HBI to Tampa to operate the organization under the umbrella of St. Joseph’s Heart Institute. Two years later, Heartbeat International became a registered corporation in the state of Florida, operating independently, and in 1994, it moved into our very own facilities.

On August 14, 1995, Heartbeat International founded its sister organization, Heartbeat International Foundation, which received its public charity nonprofit status. Heartbeat International Foundation was approved as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Heartbeat International Foundation (HBI) was now a fully independent nonprofit organization.

Two years later, Heartbeat International Foundation became a member of the Independent Charities of America, an umbrella organization that approves nonprofits as candidates for government employee and military personnel donations. This accreditation bolstered HBI’s growing reputation as a trusted nonprofit organization making a global impact.

The decade ended looking to the future with the establishment of the Henry D. McIntosh Fellowship Society in 1999. Initiated by Heartbeat International Foundation and Ramon Cumagun of the Lipa City, Philippines Pacemaker Bank, the Henry D. McIntosh Fellowship Society focuses on expanding organizational involvement and new partnerships with the goal of establishing a sustainable financial future—critical to growing the mission of providing lifesaving care for hearts in need.

Blazing New Trails into a New Millennium

The year 2000 not only marked the turning of the century, it also marked the 5,000th pacemaker implanted (and life saved) by Heartbeat International Foundation. Now that’s how you kick off a new millennium!

To ensure HBI would continue to serve evermore hearts in need, it established new leadership for this new age. In 2003, Benedict S. Maniscalco, MD became Heartbeat International Foundation Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and its Board of Directors expanded beyond leaders in cardiovascular medicine and pacing to now include local, national, and global community leaders.

Under Dr. Maniscalco, HBI embarked on an exciting period, with his leadership laying a secure foundation for the organization by focusing on sustained growth, compliant practices, expanded marketing efforts, new partnerships, and new sources of funding.

One of the most important developments during this period was the transformation of HBI’s pacemaker banks into International Heart Centers.

Under this new model, the International Heart Centers operate as independent organizations, conforming to their country’s regulations as a non-profit organization, including having a Board of Directors composed of in-country partners and volunteers. To help defer operating costs and ensure sustainability, each Heart Center is responsible for annual membership dues. Sponsorship from U.S. and in-country Rotary Clubs play a critical role in funding the membership dues and establishing new Heart Centers.

The first Heart Centers to operate as independent organizations are Heartbeat International Foundation of the Philippines, established in 2006, and Heartbeat International Foundation of Mexico and Heartbeat International Foundation of Venezuela in 2007.

To ensure HBI maintained a high standard of compliant practices and could provide the latest cardiac devices, Dr. Maniscalco worked to strengthen the partnerships with pacemaker manufacturers. In 2010, German-based manufacturer BIOTRONIK joined Heartbeat International Foundation with an initial donation of over 500 devices. Over the course of fourteen years and with over 5,600 donated devices, BIOTRONIK played a vital role as an integral supporter of the ForHearts mission, also providing training and technical support to our physicians.

While direct support from device manufacturers and fundraising from Rotary International were the lifeblood of Heartbeat International Foundation during this time, Dr. Maniscalco had the vision to take our mission into the larger community, expanding our marketing and fundraising efforts to reach new audiences unaware of the great global need.

Of all of the new partnerships Dr. Maniscalco developed during his tenure as Chairman, the most impactful may be with Thomas C. Crawford, MD, an electrophysiologist and Clinical Associate Professor with University of Michigan Health. Dr. Crawford and his team operate their own pacemaker project called My Heart Your Heart, whose mission is to “systematize knowledge about reconditioning pacemakers and reimplanting them in patients in low-income countries free of charge.”

Collaborating with My Heart Your Heart has opened a new source of devices for HBI’s Heart Centers and created a new avenue for My Heart Your Heart to reach additional patients. Dr. Crawford quickly became a vital part of our organization, joining our Board of Directors, and eventually serving as Vice Chairman, Medical Director, and now Chairman of ForHearts Worldwide.

2020 Vision: New Chairman, New Name, Expanded Mission

HBI’s fourth decade began on the solid foundation laid by Dr. Maniscalco. His nearly 20 years as Chairman led the organization to achieving the highest level of financial solvency in its history. HBI found itself in good hands as Dr. Maniscalco passed the Chairmanship to Dr. Crawford in 2022.

This sustained growth and leadership brought HBI to an important milestone: with a network of medical professionals across the globe and International Heart Centers in seven countries providing pacemaker implant procedures and lifelong follow-up care, resulting in over 17,000 lives saved!

With these established resources and proven success, the decision was made to expand the mission by broadening the care HBI can provide for hearts in need. As our Chairman Dr. Crawford put it: “We are ready to broaden our scope of work to include non-pacemaker functions, such as provision of stents and valves. The excitement is that there’s a critical number of folks here who already want to make this work, and I’m excited to work with them. It’s a shared passion that we have.”

To better communicate the expanded mission for hearts in need, a new name was in order. Heartbeat International Foundation officially became ForHearts Worldwide in 2022. To celebrate the new ForHearts Worldwide and recognize the leadership of Dr. Maniscalco and Dr. Crawford, our ForHearts community came together for our inaugural A Night ForHearts Event.

With a new name, new chairman, and even greater mission, ForHearts now embarks on new ways to fund the ForHearts vision. We “tee off” a new annual fundraiser with our Drive to Save Lives Golf Tournament, now in its fourth year. A Night ForHearts is now an annual fundraising event celebrating our supporters and the thousands of lives their support helps to save.

How many more lives will we save? Where will our next Heart Centers be? There’s only one way to find out—join us on our mission. After 40 years, we’re just getting started!