Former Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton is in Sioux Falls this weekend to take part in a fundraising concert Saturday. On Friday, Hamilton paid a visit to a teenager who's come a long way geographically and medically thanks to Hamilton's generosity and the help of others.
With a face that sparkles as brightly as her tiara, Perla Denisse Carrillo Leyva's recovery from heart surgery received an Olympic-sized boost with a visit from former figure skating champion Scott Hamilton.
"It's just so wonderful to see this beautiful girl," Hamilton said.
"Thank you," Perla said.
Doctors told Perla's family that she likely wouldn't survive to see her fifth birthday because of her bad heart. The Los Cabos Children's Foundation arranged to bring Perla from her hometown in Mexico to Sioux Falls to undergo open heart surgery.
Hamilton, who a year ago learned about the foundation's efforts to provide medical care for children in Mexico, donated $50-thousand dollars toward her surgery. Perla's new lease on life and her new friendship with Hamilton is all the more meaningful because this is her 15th birthday.
"To be here today and celebrate a birthday is extraordinary, it just fills my heart," Hamilton said.
Hamilton, who's survived cancer and brain tumors, knows what it's like to face a lifetime of medical challenges.
"I joke that I have a unique hobby of collecting life-threatening illnesses and I've just been really fortunate to have access to really great medical care but when you see the families that we meet in Los Cabos, they don't have access at all," Hamilton said.
There may be a language barrier, but these two kindred spirits can speak from experience about the healing power of compassion.
"Just what she's survived and what she's going to be able to do with her life now, it's wonderful," Hamilton said.
Hamilton is the guest narrator at Saturday's Gift of Hope Concert at O'Gorman High School. Perla will also attend the concert before returning home to Mexico next week