About Us

ALTSO is an NYC-based non-profit organization working in the developing world, bringing free orthopedic care to children with untreated limb disabilities whose families cannot afford treatment. Our goal is to provide high-quality continuous care until the age of 21 for all patients treated under ALTSO’s program. Since 2003, through local treatment providers in Asia, Africa and Latin America we've provided free orthopedic care to more than 16,700 children in need. Join us to help level the playing field.


Our Mission Statement

The mission of A Leg To Stand On (ALTSO) is to offer children who have lost their limbs in traumatic accidents or suffer from congenital limb disabilities the physical capabilities to access the opportunities and self-esteem earned through education, work and mobility.


Our Founders

 

C. Mead Welles

Founder

Mead co-founded ALTSO in 2002 and serves as the organization’s Chairman and Treasurer. Mead is also the Founder and CEO of Octagon Asset Management, LLC and is responsible for managing the core portfolios and determining the overall strategy of the hedge funds managed by Octagon. Mead brings to Octagon unique experience in trade and commodity finance, emerging market fixed income asset management, and emerging market structured finance. Prior to Octagon, Mead worked at Cargill Financial Services International, the internal emerging market investment and trading arm of Cargill, Inc. As one of the original members of the emerging markets trade and structured finance group, Mead focused on finding ways of using Cargill’s international trade and working capital flows to arbitrage capital markets, finance subsidiaries, mitigate risks and minimize balance sheet usage. Before Cargill, he worked in asset management for Bull & Bear Securities and for Shearson Lehman Hutton. Mead received his B.A. in Economics from Bates College in Lewiston, ME with additional studies in international business in Lugano, Switzerland.

 

Dr. Dinesh G. Patel

Co-Founder

Dr. Patel is a recognized pioneer in arthroscopic surgery, who trained in Orthopedic Surgery at Harvard. He currently serves as Chief of Arthroscopic Surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital and is an Associate Clinical Professor at Harvard Medical School. He has lectured extensively around the world, in India, the US, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Egypt and Japan, and is the recipient of numerous awards and honors for service and professional excellence. He was born, raised and educated in Nadiad, Gujarat, India.


Mead's Story

While in Indonesia in the late 1990’s, I was eating dinner on the patio of a restaurant. I was so tired, having just spent the last two days fighting long lines at airports and customs, and lugging my baggage from hotel-to-hotel in a whirlwind business tour of four countries. I found myself thinking about how hard I thought I had it.

Then I saw 3 young boys. Two of them were pulling a rope that was tied to the lid of a garbage can. The third boy was sitting on the lid. They were begging for money. They were skinny, they were dirty and they were obviously exhausted. Suddenly I noticed that the boy being pulled had a horrifically deformed leg. It was clear that before sitting on the lid, he had been walking on his stubbed limb — it was raw and bleeding, and he couldn’t stand on it any longer. His knuckles were in the same condition, which told me he’d been pulling himself around on the lid. I sat there motionless as the three boys passed by.

I went up to my hotel room after dinner and sat on my bed. While I had been complaining to myself about how hard I thought I had it, I failed to recognize how lucky I was to have the life I did. The personal sacrifices and physical hardships I was experiencing were not only my own choice… they really were so very, very trivial.

I was paralyzed with sadness. I could only imagine the pain the crippled child had to go through every day, every minute, every second of his life. I was awed by the other two boys – impoverished beyond anything I’d ever seen – still took care of their disabled friend. And I was ashamed of myself because I could have easily taken that child to a local hospital and for under a thousand dollars, (which I could have charged on my credit card), given that child a new life… but I didn’t.

I couldn’t sit motionless any longer while children suffered horribly because they didn’t have limbs. I vowed on that day that I would never look away again and that I would devote myself to creating a vehicle to bring the resources to the need and give prosthetic arms and legs to these beautiful children without limbs. I flew home and started A Leg To Stand On in 2000.


A little Q&A with C. Mead Welles

 

What inspired you to start A Leg To Stand On?

My senior year in high school, I was asked by my Spanish teacher if I would accompany him to volunteer at a school for children with disabilities. I said yes, largely out of fear that if I said no, my Spanish grade would suffer. I boarded the bus begrudgingly and arrived 45 minutes later, nervous about what I was about to experience. Much to my surprise, the children, although disabled, were incredibly happy and positive. After a stint tutoring some of the children, I was asked to oversee physical education class in the gym. 

“The number one need for children in developing countries is having stable health, including mobility. With health and mobility, a child can walk to school, work, play, and even escape from danger." — C. Mead Welles

The children wanted to play basketball. I divided the children in to two teams and when I blew the whistle, the children began to play. Given the various disabilities, the ball was dropped or turned over constantly. However, when a child dropped the ball or missed a shot, the other children (regardless of which team they were on), would return the ball and encourage them to try again. I had not seen this type of selfless behavior where everyone was so concerned about the happiness of the others. And it wasn’t just one or two children, all of them displayed the most incredible kindness and compassion for each other. This was a sharp contrast from the world I was used to where the competitive nature of my classmates and friends usually resulted in someone trying to undermine everyone else to get ahead. 

I realized that despite what I thought was being dealt a bad hand of cards, the disabilities were actually a blessing in that it made these children more sensitive to others, more appreciative for what they did have and more kind, compassionate and happy in general. It was so touching that I felt that these children ought to be lifted up and applauded for making the best out of what other’s might consider a difficult situation. What I witnessed inspired me to start what is today A Leg To Stand On.

What do you think is the number one challenge you face serving children in need of medical treatment around the world?

I think the #1 challenge is gaining the awareness and raising the money to do the work we do.

Do you have any advice for other individuals who want to start medical programs for children with disabilities?

Yes.  But first, you have to determine whether the need you are trying to address is being provided for already by another non-profit. If not, then just do it. Just be sure to not over promise and under deliver. It is not a competition and as a non-profit, no one is concerned about the amount of time you take to execute your plan. Therefore commit to doing it at your pace. It may require more than you planned on at times, but it is well worth it. Talk as openly about your idea to as many people as you can and plug away at it one step at a time. Eventually you will find someone that it resonates with or who is in a position to assist you. You don’t always need money either to help others, “elbow grease” can move mountains if you are smart about it. Be a vehicle to deliver the service. Others can help put fuel in the tank and drive. Don’t be too proud to ask for help or support. People like to volunteer for worthy causes.

Where do you see A Leg To Stand On going in the next 10 years?

Over the next 10 years, I see A Leg To Stand On developing not only in terms of its geographies and children being served, but also in terms of the scope of services and range of issues we are trying to solve for. The next phase for ALTSO is to begin addressing the roots of the disabilities focusing on issues like improved ambulatory services, pollution, water and chemical contaminants that result in congenital birth defects, and better traffic management enforcement to reduce the number of accident related amputations. Education will be another component of our growth, where we can create training programs to train medical professionals in the most cost effective and high quality services for all limb disability treatments. Cost effective scaling requires efficient processes and harnessing technology is one way to achieve this. I would like us to be able to build out a technology platform that allows us to reach any qualifying child in the world in need of help with their limbs.

What are some of the challenges you face when working in developing countries?

There are many challenges we face when working in developing countries, not the least of which are cross border regulations and political red tape. Other complicating factors include, cultural differences, climate, limited access to necessary resources, obsolete or no technology, not to mention language barriers.

What would you say is the number one need for children in developing countries?

The number one need for children in developing countries is having stable health, including mobility. With health and mobility, a child can walk to school, work, play, and even escape from danger.

Tell us about a specific success story of one of the children your program has helped and how their life changed?

A strikingly beautiful teenage Indian girl was flying a kite in a kite contest in India. The kite was made by her grandfather who used wire for the kite string. During the contest the kite blew into some electrical lines and a jolt of electricity ran down the wire and literally blew off the girl’s arms just beneath her shoulders. It also badly scorched her neck and chest resulting in burn scars on her neck, parts of her face and chest. As if the trauma and pain of the accident weren’t bad enough, the loss of her arms and scarring attracted many stares. Furthermore everything she did required having someone else help her. Eating, getting dressed, scratching her nose, going to the bathroom all required someone else’s assistance. When we gave her two articulating prosthetic arms, she started to cry and the first thing she did was to lift the prosthetic arms to hide her face, so we couldn’t see her crying. When she realized that she could in fact shield herself, the crying broke out into convulsions of tears of relief. The nurse explained that she was so happy to have renewed independence and most of all, to look normal so that she wouldn’t be starred at by children and adults on the street any longer. 


Board of Directors

ALTSO is led by a committed and influential team that oversees the organization’s evolution – and works strategically to level the playing field for the world’s neediest children.

 

C. Mead Welles

Founder, Chairman and Treasurer

Mead co-founded ALTSO in 2002 and serves as the organization’s Chairman and Treasurer. Mead is also the Founder and CEO of Octagon Asset Management, LLC and is responsible for managing the core portfolios and determining the overall strategy of the hedge funds managed by Octagon. Mead brings to Octagon unique experience in trade and commodity finance, emerging market fixed income asset management, and emerging market structured finance. Prior to Octagon, Mead worked at Cargill Financial Services International, the internal emerging market investment and trading arm of Cargill, Inc. As one of the original members of the emerging markets trade and structured finance group, Mead focused on finding ways of using Cargill’s international trade and working capital flows to arbitrage capital markets, finance subsidiaries, mitigate risks and minimize balance sheet usage. Before Cargill, he worked in asset management for Bull & Bear Securities and for Shearson Lehman Hutton. Mead received his B.A. in Economics from Bates College in Lewiston, ME with additional studies in international business in Lugano, Switzerland.

 

Dr. Harold van Bosse

Medical Director

Dr. van Bosse is an attending pediatric orthopedic surgeon at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, and his niche specialties include treating the orthopaedic manifestations of arthrogryposis and Prader-Willi syndrome, as well as spinal deformity, upper and lower limb deformities, hip problems and neuromuscular diseases. He has been deeply involved in popularizing the Ponseti technique for treating clubfoot as a low cost alternative for developing countries. Dr. van Bosse trained at the University of Illinois for his general orthopedic residency, followed by a fellowship at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario.

 

Catharine A. Carroll, MBA, ACC

Director

Catharine is the owner and founder of Legacy Onward, which brings executive coaching services to family businesses.  After growing up in a family business, Cathy pursued a 20-year corporate career before leaving to lead her father's manufacturing business, Pro Equine Group, a leading manufacturer of rodeo and equestrian equipment. Before joining Pro Equine Group, she spent twelve years in the travel industry in a variety of finance, marketing and sales roles at United Airlines and Sabre Inc, as well as six years as a pension actuary at AON/Hewitt. Catharine holds an MBA from the University of Chicago, a BA from Boston College, and she earned her Associate in the Society of Actuaries (ASA) prior to attending graduate school. She is also an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) with the International Coaching Federation. Cathy has always been active in her community, mentoring at-risk teens through the I Have A Dream program, and is currently leading the Psychology Committee of A Giving Heart Foundation and serves on the President's Advisory Council for the President of St. Xavier University.

 

Edwin W Laffey Jr.

Director

Wynn attended the Lawrenceville School and Columbia University before pursuing a career on Wall St, starting in 1970 with Chemical Bank, and culminating with his co-founding of First Money Managers International in 1982 (a concern no longer extant). Also during that period he served on the boards of 313 East 10th St. Corp., Collette Mfg. Co., and the Children of Bellevue Hospital. After taking some time off, but looking to re-engage with the charitable sector, particularly with an enterprise that was young and as much in need of sweat equity as donations, Wynn was introduced to Mead Welles and the newly created A Leg To Stand On. At first his involvement was primarily passive due to personal time constraints, but that all changed when he took on a more active role following the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. After visiting the Hôpital Albert Schweitzer (HAS), 2 1/2 hours north of the capital, in 2011, Wynn joined ALTSO's Advisory Board. Wynn is also currently involved in the activities of another not-for-profit, PUPPIES BEHIND BARS, an organization dedicated to the raising & training of service dogs by prison inmates for the primary benefit of those service men & women who suffer from ptsd &/or have limb disabilities. He also takes a "puppy" once a week to the New York City District Attorney's Family Justice Center to assist in a pilot program to help victims in battered families adjust to and accept their trauma as well as seek justice.


Officers

 

Gabriella Mueller Evrard

Executive Director

gevrard@altso.org

After traveling extensively throughout developing countries in Latin America, Gabriella decided she wanted to do something to help the many children she saw begging for money or food. In 2006, she signed up to volunteer at A Leg To Stand On. Now the Executive Director, Gabriella is humbled to have overseen the organization’s growth from three programs to over 10 programs in six years, and to continue cultivating relationships with supporters as passionate about A Leg To Stand On’s mission as she is.

 

A.J. Warco

Director of Programs

awarco@altso.org

A.J. joined us in 2009 after working on humanitarian projects throughout both South and South East Asia. While abroad, he learned firsthand how many children with physical disabilities miss out on the opportunity to attend school, are labeled as family burdens and often abandoned to fend for themselves. Upon returning to the States, his experiences led him to learn more about suitable prosthetic and orthotic technologies and physical rehabilitation programs in the developing world. He now develops and manages our program partnerships, frequently traveling to programs across Asia and Africa.

 

Beth Ann Hemming

Director of Development

bhemming@altso.org

With a passion for advocating the underserved and underrepresented, Beth Ann fit right in at ALTSO when she joined the team in 2013. She started as the team's administrative assistant and has been helping to grow both ALTSO's network and impact since. Now as the Director of Development, Beth Ann oversees the organization's development and accounting while working with the rest of the staff to fulfill her personal and professional desire to empower more children each year.

 

Dhiren Joshi, C.P.O.

Country Director - India / Chief Prosthetics and Orthotics Consultant

djoshi@altso.org

 

Hannah Schumacher

Executive Assistant

hschumacher@altso.org

 

Mary Frances Layden

Community Engagement

mflayden@altso.org


Advisory Board of Directors

 

André Donatiu

Lyxor Asset Management

Tim Evans

Prosthetist, Arimed Orthotics and Prosthetics

Gabrielle Guttman

President, Connext Consulting Inc.

Ray McKenzie

Apple

Imogen Rose-Smith

Staff Writer, Institutional Investor

Albert Song

Vice President, Goldman Sachs

Esther Song

Mondrian Park Avenue, Journal Hotels

Greg Winterton

Managing Director, The Sortino Group

Bob Zagotta

President, RJZ Advisors

In memory of Eric Saucedo 
Eric's passion for philanthropy was evident in his tireless advocacy for ALTSO's children. He will be remembered for his tenacity, compassion and generosity. 


The Wishlist

As a non-profit that is committed to running as efficiently as a for-profit, we understand that individuals, startups and even large businesses don't always have the financial resources to support the wide range of charities that are often asking for annual support. We acknowledge that rather than money, talent and expertise can go a long way. That is why we have created The Wishlist.

By leveraging the power of community and stating our specific needs in tech, healthcare, hospitality, and a multitude of other services, we are asking individuals and businesses, both large and small, to offer their particular talent as a tax-deductible donation to ALTSO. It serves to give back to and highlight corporate social responsibility and individual values. In addition to a tax-deductible receipt (per item basis), participants will be publicly listed as ALTSO Ambassadors (if so desired). Participants will also receive invitations to exclusive ALTSO events.

If you're interested in providing your skill set to ALTSO, enabling us to treat more children in the developing world, browse The Wishlist. If there's an item that fits, let us know. It's that simple.