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A Hero at Large

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Each year I look forward to our annual story on people who, in moments of crisis, summon uncommon courage and save lives. Like the people you’ll meet in this issue, Dr. Irwin Redlener, 61, a pediatrician who cofounded the Children’s Health Fund in 1987, has been a hero to those who needed him most. Redlener dispatches 30 state-of-the-art mobile medical units to impoverished areas and trouble spots around the country, bringing medical attention to the desperate and disadvantaged. His organization sent help to New York City on Sept. 11.

Just days after Hurricane Katrina hit, he took two units to the Gulf Coast. “In the first weeks we’ve seen more than 7,000 patients who had their doctors’ offices wiped out,” says Redlener, whose team of medics provides vaccinations and treats infections, among other procedures. “We have to hang in there, because the stories leave the front pages but the people remain.”

Traditionally we celebrate our heroes with a weeklong series of profiles on CBS’s The Early Show and a luncheon in New York City. This year will be a little different. You’ll still see the profiles on TV (starting Oct. 31), but instead of the luncheon PEOPLE is making a donation to the Children’s Health Fund. It’s our small way of helping heroes like Dr. Redlener keep going where they’re needed most.