Gary Segal met Dr. Rick Hodes initially while on a trip to Ethiopia in 2007, accompanied by his then 16 year old son Justin, for the purpose of learning about JDC's humanitarian work in that country. In 2008 Gary returned to Ethiopia with Nanci, Justin and son Adam, for the dedication of a newly built two-room mud-brick school house project initiated by Justin for young children in a village up North, and to spend more time with Dr. Hodes.
Over the course of spending a week with Dr. Hodes and his many foster and adopted children, Gary learned about Tesfaye’s plight. At the age of 8, Tesfaye was struck with TB, causing his spine to collapse. At the age of 13, Tesfaye (which means “My Hope” in Amharic) left his remote village in Gojam Ethiopia on a "journey of hope" to the capital Addis Ababa to cure his back. After spending a few more years surviving on a dollar or two a day in the small Mercato of Addis by peddling items like gum, pens, and kleenex from his wheelbarrow that he pushed while all bent over, he finally was diagnosed and treated for TB at the Mother Teresa Mission; eventually the nuns introduced him to Dr. Rick Hodes.
Dr. Rick has found help for thousands in desperate need, but Tesfaye was not so lucky; his case was too complicated for the available options at the time in Ghana. With Nanci's blessing, Gary spent almost a year diligently pursuing the possibility of bringing Tesfaye to Vancouver for spine surgery and finally on his 18th birthday, May 20 2009, Tesfaye arrived in Vancouver and was welcomed into the Segals' home. On June 12th “Team Tesfaye”, led by Surgeon Dr. Marcel Dvorak at VGH, brought HOPE back to this young man by successfully performing delicate 14 hour life-saving spine surgery. (Click here to read 2009 Vancouver Sun article about Tesfaye and his successful surgery at VGH )
After living with the Segals for 6 months and then returning to Addis Ababa to continue his schooling, a few months later Tesfaye finally went back to visit his remote village in the Gojam countryside, accompanied by Gary, to show everyone his amazing physical transformation. Tesfaye's family saw him standing straight for the first time since he was 8 years old and the whole village joyously celebrated his miraculous “rebirth” during their 3 day visit. Tesfaye has welcomed his new life with a sense of joy, enthusiasm and gratitude, along with a desire to succeed and “pay forward” to others his own good fortune. He is a valued member of the Segal family with his infectious personality, smile, optimism and sense of humour. Tesfaye will return to Vancouver for Bring Back Hope 2017, if possible along with his younger sister Fantaye.
Getting to know Rick and his life of devotion so intimately and experiencing in such a close and personal way the dramatic impact that Rick's life-saving work has on severe spine patients like Tesfaye, inspired Gary to launch the "Bring Back Hope" Initiative for Ethiopia in order to support Rick's humanitarian mission of good, and to create hope for the hundreds of other sick and poor like him that would otherwise be doomed to suffer an early death without Dr. Hodes' and Dr. Boachie's life-saving partnership. So many caring people in Vancouver have embraced this initiative and become devoted members of the team and supporters, enabling the remarkable success of the inaugural 2012 Eventing to Bring Back Hope and helping save many lives in the process.
The story of how it all started is told by the video "Tesfaye means Hope", produced by Paperny Entertainment for Evening to Bring Back Hope 2012.