Elizabeth Perlich Sweeney Honored with 2023 Children’s HeartLink Founders Award 

Published September 30, 2023 

Elizabeth pictured at the 2022 Children’s HeartLink Global Gathering event

We are elated to announce Elizabeth Perlich Sweeney, dedicated volunteer, former president and former board member of Children’s HeartLink, will be honored with the Children’s HeartLink Founders Award during our Global Gathering event on October 28, 2023.

“Elizabeth has not just been a leader, but a beacon, illuminating the path for Children’s HeartLink to save more young lives globally,” said Jackie Boucher, president of Children’s HeartLink. “Our founder, Dr. Joe Kiser, regarded Elizabeth highly and considered her to be an individual who significantly impacted the trajectory of this organization. We’re honored to recognize her for the extraordinary dedication and contributions she’s made to the Children’s HeartLink mission.” 

A legacy of service 

Elizabeth’s relationship with Children’s HeartLink began when she was little. Some of her earliest memories involve helping her mother, an active volunteer for the organization, assemble centerpieces for our fundraising events.  

Taking the torch from her mother, encouraged to volunteer by Tonya Puckett-Miller and inspired by our founder, Dr. Joe Kiser, Elizabeth grew her relationship with Children’s HeartLink over the years. 

Serving as president from 2002 to 2014, Elizabeth helped Children’s HeartLink emerge from a difficult financial period and brought stability to the organization.  

Her work helped make Children’s HeartLink viable for the growth and expansion we’ve seen in recent years; Dr. Kiser himself credited her with bringing order to the organization both financially and strategically.  

Under her guidance, Children’s HeartLink transitioned from its early days as a medical mission entity to adopting a sustainable model of training and mentoring local medical providers, often referred to as the train-the-trainer model. Under this model, we work with hospital partners and build them into Centers of Excellence committed to educating pediatric cardiac specialists in their region and around the world. This strategic shift has not only expanded Children’s HeartLink’s reach but has also helped local hospitals to expand access to high-quality heart care for children in underserved regions. Elizabeth has continued supporting Children’s HeartLink throughout the years as a board member and active volunteer. 

“Elizabeth embodies the essence of what Dr. Kiser envisioned when he founded Children’s HeartLink,” Boucher said. “She has not just maintained his legacy; she has enriched it.”  

A dynamic and personable relationship builder, a global humanitarian

Elizabeth while volunteering with Children’s HeartLink

Elizabeth has promoted Children’s HeartLink partnerships around the world through the years, radiating warmth and communicating respect for medical partners, volunteers, staff members, supporters and children with congenital heart disease.  

While traveling with Children’s HeartLink’s medical teams she observed first-hand the lifesaving work being done in places like Vietnam, Brazil, China and India. 

During her first training visit to China, Elizabeth had the opportunity to stand inside the operating room as a child underwent heart surgery. She recalls watching the child being taken off the heart and lung machine, and the palpable tension as everyone in the room waited for the child’s heart to start beating on its own. She said this was a profound, transformative moment that has stayed with her through the years and makes her feel fortunate to be part of this lifesaving work.  

“Millions of kids around the world need help,” Elizabeth Perlich Sweeney said. “Who wouldn’t want to do this work? From the Children’s HeartLink staff to the people who donate their time and money to this organization, there are so many moving parts, and all these people have come together to provide more children with access to heart care.” 

Innovating for the future 

Elizabeth has remained actively involved with Children’s HeartLink over the years, including chairing our 50th Anniversary Committee in 2019. She and her husband, Mike Sweeney, worked to engage individuals important to the organization’s past, present and future for the milestone celebration. 

They also helped engage local CEOs to promote greater public visibility of Children’s HeartLink. This concept led to the yearly success of our annual HeartLink Gala, currently known as the Global Gathering.  

“Children’s HeartLink is the little engine that could,” Elizabeth said. “The organization has this ability to keep adapting and evolving. It keeps rising to the occasion, over and over and over again. Now they’re stronger than ever, reaching more children than ever, and we know what we’re doing is working.” 

Elizabeth’s contributions to Children’s HeartLink are testaments to the power of committed leadership and altruistic service. As we prepare to honor her with the 2023 Founders Award, we are reminded of how one individual can make a monumental difference in the lives of countless children around the world. 


Previous Children’s HeartLink Founders Award winners:
2022 Found: Dr. Peter Hesslein
2021: Dr. Glen Van Arsdell, Dr. Steven Schwartz and Dr. Jim Rice
2020: Dr. Sandra Staveski
2019: Dr. Joe Dearani
About Children’s HeartLink
Children’s HeartLink saves children’s lives by transforming pediatric heart care in underserved parts of the world. The global nonprofit organization (NGO), partners medical volunteers from top teaching and research institutions with doctors, nurses and health care professionals in Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Malaysia and Vietnam to develop or improve pediatric cardiac care programs. Since 1969, the organization has reached more than 1.5 million children.