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Format: 04/17/2014
Format: 04/17/2014


Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Relief flight delivers supplies, whisks orphans off to new lives

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

By Margaret Harding
Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jim Bouchard went to Haiti with a plane full of medical supplies and returned Monday with 102 orphans.

Bouchard, 48, of Sewickley helped organize what he described as the largest non-military shipment of medicines to Haiti since the Jan. 12 earthquake devastated its capital of Port-au-Prince.

The plane left Sunday, carrying about 35,000 pounds of medical supplies — enough pain medication for 5,000 operations and antibiotics for 300,000 people at four hospitals, said Aaron Billger, spokesman for Highmark, which helped organize the trip with several Pittsburgh-area hospital systems and other groups.

But when Bouchard and others were set to fly home, they saw a van filled with orphans at the U.S. Embassy waiting for a way out of Haiti. The group loaded the children onto the chartered plane and delivered them to families in Orlando, Fla., Bouchard said.

"It was kind of emotional to see all the parents standing there on the tarmac waiting for them," said Bouchard, founder and chairman of Chicago-based Esmark Inc. "It was a happy day for everyone. (Some) of the parents had been waiting three years."

The children had proper paperwork to leave Haiti, said Bouchard, whose company once owned Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. They were just waiting for a way out.

"The first thing was the medical supplies," he said. "The orphans were the icing on the cake. That's a double bonus."

About 200 people were involved in the trip, including 79 adults who flew to Port-au-Prince. Many are Bouchard's neighbors in Sewickley, including Ted Ruscitti, who arrived at Pittsburgh International Airport on Sunday to help load the plane and ended up flying along to Haiti.

When the adoptive parents of two Haitian brothers didn't make it to Orlando before Ruscitti's plane was to leave for Pittsburgh, Ruscitti volunteered to stay with them.

He remained in Orlando yesterday afternoon.

"There were two little guys just sitting there (in the customs area) with wide eyes, looking around for someone to connect with them," Ruscitti said. "These were two of the children I had been with on the airplane, so I had wanted to say goodbye to them.

"I just did what I think anyone would have done in a situation like that. One of the older kids speaks four languages and was looking forward to getting his driver's license in America. It really touched me."

Dr. Jeb Blaugrund, chief of the ear, nose and throat department at Allegheny General Hospital, made his second trip to Haiti in a week to help distribute the supplies. He was back at work yesterday after landing in Pittsburgh about 6 a.m.

To read more, visit the Tribune-Review website.

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