When talking about heroes, one usually thinks of Marvel and DC characters, war icons, important politicians, and other famous characters. One does not traditionally think of foundations and organizations built and run by normal people. Fundación Teletón has been a national hero in Mexico and a source of pride for Mexican society, earning recognition from many Latin American countries since its foundation in 1997. It is the world’s largest non-profit foundation for children with physical disabilities with rehabilitation centers all throughout the country, including a cancer hospital and an autism center. During the pandemic, not only did they continue to do their daily rehabilitation and treatment activities remotely, but they also offered their infrastructure for the Mexican government to use as hospitals to treat COVID patients as well as other vulnerable communities, free of cost.
“Fundación Teletón adapted their technology so that our health professionals and therapists could remotely provide therapy for their patients and continue their patients’ rehabilitation.” -Rossana Corona, Teletón Adjunct CEO
Founded 24 years ago, Fundación Teletón has since built 24 rehabilitation centers throughout Mexico and have treated more than 454,000 people since 1999. In order to raise funds for their operation and maintenance, Fundación Teletón holds an annual fundraising event that is streamed on live television by “Latin America’s largest mass media company, Televisa. This event maintains at least 1 million people watching the 17-hour-long event at all times, according to the Teletón board of directors.
“Fundación Teleton has a very important role in Mexico, and it has been supported throughout many years by large international companies, such as Microsoft, DHL, Aeromexico/Delta, Unilever, CitiBanamex, and Toyota, among others.” -Rossana Corona
Teletón’s mission statement is to “raise the quality of life for children with disabilities, autism, and cancer by promoting their full inclusion” which they seek to do by, “building an inclusive country and being a leading organization in the field of disability, autism and cancer.” They achieved their objective more than ever when faced with the biggest health emergency since they were founded over two decades ago. In the midst of a global pandemic, Teletón provided for the country by truly serving in the best interest of the Mexican people, both for victims of the COVID pandemic, as well as for their regular patients.
“Some of our facilities became temporary covid treatment hospitals, and other centers were made available to receive patients for non-COVID-related conditions, allowing for more room in hospitals for covid patients… Teletón also provided families with groceries to help them through a very difficult time, as well as turning a hotline, that was originally meant for donors, into a hotline to answer calls inquiring about COVID and to provide help from health professionals to people who suffered from COVID-related anxiety and stress.” -Rossana Corona
Fundación Teletón managed to make the best out of a situation that presented a difficult challenge to the entire world. What seemed like a daunting task— teaching patients’ families how to carry out remote therapy— somehow empowered the families and allowed them to actively be a part of their childrens’ progress. Teletón’s therapists and doctors were committed to making the challenge of remote therapy work, some even taking additional training to be fully equipped to handle the extraordinary circumstances.
After contemplating cancelling their yearly fundraising event, Fundación Teletón concluded that it could not be called off since the foundation’s operations are mostly based on the donations received from the general public year to year. The annual fundraising event, typically the main source of donations, consists of stories that narrate the journey of a patient and the impact that Teletón has had on their lives, along with entertainment from TV series, reality shows, and musical numbers. Woven among the stories and the entertainment, there are sections where Mexican celebrities call on the public to donate and remind the audience of why it is important that they achieve their donation goal for the evening.
Prior to the event, challenges are held which invite the public to become involved with Teletón by working towards a common good. Some of these challenges include environmental work, the promotion and showcase of traditional Mexican regional and folkloric dance and cuisine, and physical exercise events such as inclusive scuba diving for people with and without disabilities and a wheelchair marathon! Each challenge has a goal, whether that is a certain amount of miles traveled on a bicycle or the amount of people that joined in recycling, and once the goal is reached, a company related to the challenge makes a significant donation to Teletón.
The challenges and the event itself would typically have been in person, however, in 2020, Teletón adapted by carrying out remote participation from the public, as well as modifying the event’s production. Their biggest challenge was the expected significantly lower influx of donations from the people due to the complicated state of the national economy. Everyone was surprised when the Mexican people participated more than ever and donated more than anyone could have hoped for, raising 380, 679, 601 pesos (19, 184, 539 USD).
Teletón became the light at the end of the tunnel for the COVID-ridden Mexican people, achieving its ultimate goal— uniting the country and generating inclusion and empathy.
“We felt so humbled and thankful for the greatness of the people’s generosity. There was enormous hope… people let go of their own problems for a day, and instead chose to help others.” -Rossana Corona
Fundación Teletón has been, from the beginning, an advocate for inclusion, empathy, and generosity, and has become an active example of these values. It has fostered unity within the country, acting as an undercover band-aid for a nation broken by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite not having muscles, a cape, or being part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Fundación Teletón is a real-life superhero. One that never fails to rise to the challenge, or lose sight of their mission: making a real difference.
To watch this year’s Fundación Teleton campaign, click here
To watch the transformation of the rehabilitation centers into hospitals, click here