Pitt student founds nonprofit ‘Spread The Love Projects’ to help pediatric patients


Image via KitAy, Wikimedia Commons

UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

By Khushi Rai, Staff Writer

Emaad Khan said he believes many patients are more worried about their medical costs rather than their health, so he started a nonprofit organization called Spread The Love Projects to help families cover costs for pediatric patients.

“I started working as an EMT in a fire station, and that’s where I realized that the people who are getting into ambulances aren’t concerned with what’s wrong, but with the cost,” Khan, a junior biology major, said. “That’s when I started to connect my passions in health care to my own experiences while growing up. That’s why I didn’t have a pediatrician.”

Spread The Love Projects is a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit organization that works toward raising awareness and funds for families struggling with pediatric medical bills through fundraisers, donation drives and social media. According to Khan, the organization partnered with UPMC Children’s Hospital to distribute funds to patients.

Khan said although he dreams of becoming a physician in the future, he recently realized the high cost associated with health care bills. He said he believes that he won’t “lose any wealth when I give it away to people who need it.”

“When I was growing up, I didn’t come from a fortunate family,” Khan said. “I was born in Pakistan and we moved here in 2010. We never had health care. I never had a pediatrician in my life and when you come to the U.S., you have to get all these vaccinations. We would go to a community vaccination center that was federally funded.”

Khan said he launched the organization two months ago and that he wanted to find partnerships before he launched the organization publicly. He said he reached out to the UPMC Children’s Hospital customer support as a “shot in the dark” to figure out if he could partner with them.

“After I called them, I think for a week I heard nothing,” Khan said. “I didn’t think anything was going to come from it. One day I was in my room and I had a missed call from Alana Kulesa, the senior director of corporate and foundation relations, and she said, ‘we’d love to partner with you.’ We got the partnership before we even launched because I really wanted something like that. I thought it would help our credibility, especially because I’m 20. It’s hard for people to take me seriously and view us as a larger club. ”

UPMC Children’s Hospital has two different avenues for distributing funds to patients in need — the social work avenue and the community health basic needs sector. Khan said when he sends the donations that Spread The Love Projects acquires, he gets to choose which avenue the money goes towards. 

“They have hospital patients who come in and need transportation and cafeteria food, so the funds will go towards that,” Khan said. “They also have a sector outside the hospital for parents who need help paying for their children’s medication.”

Khan said UPMC Children’s Hospital sends him annual reports to document how the funds are distributed. He said since launching the organization, they raised about $5,000. Of the donations, $2,500 went to the social work avenue, while the other $2,500 went to the community health basic needs sector.

“We went to a Pitt tailgate actually, and we raised money there,” Khan said. “We went around and talked to people and it was a very humbling experience. We also went to a local mosque and raised a good amount of money there. We tabled in front of Hillman the other day and gave out free T-shirts to spread awareness. We also sell shirts on our website, and then all those proceeds go towards our cause.”

Sulaman Rajput, head of community outreach, said the organization is currently working toward setting up future events to raise money for patients. Rajput, a junior biology major, said the organization hopes to promote their events to the whole Pittsburgh community rather than just students.

“We want to set up a local donation drive,” Rajput said. “We want to reach out to the community as a whole. We don’t just want to give out money. We also want to physically help by visiting and volunteering at Children’s Hospital. We’re also planning a toy drive.”

Madyson Godwin, director of operations, said Spread The Love Projects also allows families across the nation to apply for funding, regardless of whether they receive treatment at UPMC Children’s Hospital. She said parents can also directly apply for donations through their website.

“If you go to our website, at the top there’s an apply page,” Godwin, a sophomore psychology major, said. “Parents can fill out an application and, once that is completed, we review it to see how we can help them. Parents just need to tell us their story.”

Khan said he is looking to partner with other local pediatricians in Pittsburgh to distribute the funds. 

“We’re exploring that slowly,” Khan said. “Right now, we’re trying to use our credibility with UPMC to gain as many funds as we can. One thing I’m really adamant about is that we aren’t giving cash away. It’s going to be need based, and we’re going to fulfill that need to the best that we can.”

Correction: A previous version of the story named the nonprofit as “Spread The Love” when the full name is “Spread The Love Projects”. The Pitt News regrets this error.