The Starfish Story
An elderly man was walking along the beach. He saw that a storm had washed up onto the sand what looked like thousands of starfish, now all dying in the sun. He then saw a little boy picking up starfish, one by one, and gently returning them to the safety of the sea so they would live.
The man said to the boy, “Why are you bothering? Can’t you see there are thousands of starfish dying here? What possible difference can you make?”
The little boy picked up one more of the starfish and returned it to the sea, and said to the man, “It made a difference to that one.”
Here at AmeriCares we follow that same philosophy; we know we can’t save everyone who needs our help from natural and man-made disasters, but it doesn’t stop us from trying to make a difference, one life at a time.
We see suffering all over the globe – a young mother giving birth alone in Afghanistan with no medical help, an elderly man in the Philippines who lost his home in Typhoon Haiyan, to an overwhelmed health worker in Sierra Leone putting her own life at risk fighting the deadly Ebola outbreak without the proper protective gear. Your support is critical to each of these people. You can help us save lives one life at a time.
The only thing that's going to save the world is love. Pure and simple. Just love. Bob Macauley
Robert C. “Bob” Macauley was founder and chairman of AmeriCares, the nonprofit global health and disaster relief organization headquartered in Stamford, CT. As someone with a lifelong passion to aid people in need, Bob founded AmeriCares in 1979. Under his vision and leadership, AmeriCares grew to become the leading nongovernmental organization delivering medicines, medical supplies and humanitarian aid around the world and across the United States.
Bob became an active philanthropist early in his career, starting a charity in the early 1970s, the Shoeshine Foundation, whose mission was to shelter Vietnamese war orphans. He remained active in several other charities when in April, 1975, a U.S. jet evacuating 243 Vietnamese orphans from Saigon crashed shortly after take-off, killing almost half of the children onboard. Upon hearing the Pentagon would take 10 days to rescue the surviving children, Bob was determined to cut through the red tape. He called Pan Am, chartered a jet and brought the survivors back to safety in the U.S., where the plane was met by President Gerald Ford. After his check to Pan Am bounced, he and his wife, Leila, mortgaged their home. “The bank got the house but we saved the kids—a fair trade,” recalled Leila.
In 1981, he was invited for a private audience with Pope John Paul II, who had learned of Macauley’s prodigious fundraising efforts as board chairman of New York City’s Covenant House. His Holiness asked if he could raise funds to buy medicines for the people of Poland, who were then suffering under martial law.
“How could I say ‘no’ to the Pope?” Bob said, and with that, collaborated with two friends to collect $1.5 million worth of medicines donated by various U.S. pharmaceutical companies and medical supply manufacturers. In March, 1982, the first airlift delivering medicines to Poland was launched.
AmeriCares has been delivering and distributing medical assistance to people in need ever since. Bob collaborated with kings, heads of state and Mother Teresa in support of AmeriCares mission to help more people live longer and healthier lives. Bob has received numerous awards for his humanitarian service, including the President’s Volunteer Action Award from Ronald Reagan in 1984 and the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award in 1997. The work of AmeriCares has been commended by Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, George H.W. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush.
Bob passed away on December 26, 2010 at the age of 87.
Macauley attended Greenwich Country Day School, Andover, and Yale. He interrupted his college education to volunteer for service in World War II, where he served in the Air Transport Command in North Africa. Upon returning to the United States he graduated magna cum laude from Yale (Class of 1945) with a degree in political science.
He followed his father into the paper business and founded Virginia Fibre, a paper company near Lynchburg, Virginia. The company was sold to Greif Bros. Corporation in the 1990s and Mr. Macauley served as a director.
Bob inspired us all with his unwavering commitment to helping people in need. When it came to delivering lifesaving aid he was bold and decisive and rarely took no for an answer. He focused on helping one person at a time and ended up helping millions of people all over the world. Bob’s belief in the redeeming power of love will live on as AmeriCares redoubles its resolve to fulfill his commitment to delivering help and hope to people in need around the world, one life at a time.
Learn more about Bob's life and achievements...
Memorial Tribute BookWe know that many, many people will want to share their memories of Bob and the work of AmeriCares, and express their condolences to Bob’s family. We've set up a special page on our site that will allow people to share a story or express their condolences Sign Memorial Tribute Book »
The Starfish FundIf people would like to make a donation in Bob’s honor, and in appreciation of his values and legacy, we’ve established the “Starfish Fund” – naming the fund after the story Bob loved about the boy who made a difference saving starfish washed up on a beach, one starfish at a time. Please say a prayer for Bob – and for all the millions of families assisted by AmeriCares – and the millions more we will continue to help.
Other LinksWe know that many, many people will want to share their memories of Bob and the work of AmeriCares, and express their condolences to Bob’s family. We've set up a special page on our site that will allow people to share a story or express their condolences.
We are profoundly saddened by the loss of our founder and great friend, Bob Macauley. While we will miss him greatly, AmeriCares remains focused on his vision of helping many more people live longer, healthier lives. Indeed, we can do him no greater honor than to continue his legacy of caring for people in need. Bob's unwavering commitment to helping others strengthens our resolve to do what we can to lift up the humanitarian ideal…to invest in people, in their health and well-being and reinforce the belief in our shared humanity. We ask you to join us in celebrating his life and legacy so we can seek a better future: a future that brings health and hope to people in desperate need…one life at a time. The AmeriCares family extends its deepest sympathies to Leila and the Macauley family. We have all been enriched and inspired by Bob. We are honored to have known such a remarkable person - a man who gave proof to the belief that one person can truly make a difference in the lives of others. Curt Welling
President & CEO