Natural Foods Merchandiser

Vitamin Angels raises money for kids during Expo gala

Gina Philie of Bridgewater, Mass., says she feels very fortunate to have access to health care and vitamin supplements because they have made a significant difference in the health of her children, but there are millions around the world who are not so lucky.

“I made sure my kids had all the vitamins and immunizations available and the fact that there are children around the world dying because they are not getting what they need disgusts me,” the Bridgewater, Mass., mother of three said.

Vitamin Angels, a non-profit organization based in Santa Barbara, Calif., has set out to do something about it. The organization supplies supplements to children around the globe in an effort to prevent childhood illnesses and infant deaths.

The organization, in its 16th year, reached 10 million children – newborns to 5 years of age – this year and plans to bring supplements, especially Vitamin A, to 15 million children in 2010. Vitamin A cuts child mortality by 23 percent.

“Vitamin A is the No. 1 nutrient to make sure children’s immune systems develop,” said donor Peter Hefele, VitaQuest’s senior vice president of business development. “We’re sending it to Africa, South America and, yes, right here in the U.S.”

Hefele announced an increase of his company’s donation from $100,000 in cash and supplements to $150,000 on Friday, during a charity reception hosted by Vitamin Angels at the 2009 Natural Products Expo East in Boston. Hefele challenged others to match his cash donation of $50,000. The event was attended by about 1,000 people.

The organization was founded by Howard Schiffer, a long-time leader in the supplements industry. Following the 1994 Northridge earthquake in California, Schiffer assisted in the relief effort and realized the need for nutrition and supplements goes beyond one natural disaster.

In the last five years alone, Vitamin Angels has distributed more than 500 million supplements to children in 90 countries, said Jeff Markel, Vitamin Angels’ director of development.

The organization receives about 150 donations a year from some of the largest companies in the naturals industry, including Ocean Nutrition, Vitamin Shoppe, Vitamin World and Garden of Life.

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