A World of Good

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Camp Miniwanca staff and student look at Lake Michigan from top of dune- photo courtesy Dan Terpstra-min

With the holiday season upon us, the AYF has so much gratitude for all of the ways in which the members of our community make a positive impact in our world. Every year, we are overwhelmed with the accomplishments of our alumni, AYF families, and friends. The stories of people at their best have filled the pages of the Founder Fire, and we are eager to continue sharing new stories of those who put the mission into action and move us forward. 


AYF alumni rahul rathod headshotBy Tovah Burstein

Rahul Rathod

15 years as an AYF participant and staff member, first with ILC at Miniwanca, then at Cedar Lake, and Merrowvista

1994: Co-Director of the brand new Cedar Lake ILC program

2016: Pediatric Cardiologist

When Rahul Rathod set out for California to start the Cedar Lake ILC program, he was only 20 years old. “In some ways it was a really great example of how the AYF puts their ideas into practice. They put young people in leadership positions. They give them a lot of responsibility at a formative time. I really do owe a lot of my success and my own personal development to the ILC program.” Rahul credits much of his success to the four years he spent on Stony Lake. “Before Miniwanca, I thought leaders were born with it. Even that first summer I came out with a different perception of my own self—it changed me. I started to be more deliberate. I can trace so much of where I am today to that experience.”

Today, many young people can trace their success and their health to Rahul. After 12 consecutive summers with the AYF, Rahul went on to medical school and became a pediatric cardiologist. Rahul often takes on new patients before they are born, working with parents who have learned that their child will come into the world with a heart condition. Many patients go through several surgeries and often stay in Rahul’s care into their adulthood. “I build a long-term relationship first with these parents, who want everything for their child, and then with the patients themselves as they mature.” These longitudinal relationships make Rahul’s work rewarding, but it can also be very emotional. “I see these kids grow up—and I am just as affected when good things happen as when it’s bad. There’s a lot of times, I can’t promise what the future holds. That’s just a part of being human, I think.”

The AYF emphasizes living in community and making a positive impact—but Rahul isn’t always sure what his impact is and who is in his central community. The morning we spoke with him, he had been at the hospital the night before until past 10:00 pm. “I guess it’s about giving your best. Being your best self, when you’re doing whatever you’re doing. Whether it’s my family, or my patient family, or my neighborhood. By knowing a little bit better who I am and having that confidence. That affects everything I do everyday. You know, ILC wasn’t meant to set me up for medical school—but it did. It sounds corny, but it’s true. Know thyself—I kind of found myself on the sand dunes of Miniwanca.”