MURRAY, Ky. — Caleb Coomes, a Murray State University student from Owensboro, spent this past summer as a full-time volunteer in Israel with Save a Child’s Heart.

Save a Child’s Heart is a non-profit organization based in Israel that provides free cardiac surgeries for children from developing countries. Coomes, who is studying biology for pre-medicine at Murray State, first heard about the organization while on a family vacation in Chicago. His sister was playing for a travel volleyball team and had a teammate whose mother was a founder and member of the board of directors for Save a Child’s Heart. After sharing his plans to work with children after graduation with the woman, she encouraged him to apply for the volunteer program.

“It really showed me that you never know where or when you’re going to make a great contact,” Coomes said.

 Other than spending his days playing with the kids, Coomes recalled that his favorite memory from the experience was having the opportunity to stand at the table beside the surgeons and watch a successful six-hour open-heart surgery on a 10-month-old boy from Uganda.

“I have always enjoyed working with kids and have always had the passion to become a doctor, so a pediatrician has always been the goal,” Coomes said. “My time with Save a Child’s Heart only further solidified that whatever I do, I plan to work with children.”

In addition to being determined to work with children, Coomes always wanted to travel abroad and participate in mission work. By volunteering with Save a Child’s Heart, he was able to do both.

“This trip further increased my desire to do more international work — even go back to Save a Child’s Heart,” Coomes said.

Since returning to campus, Coomes has worked to encourage those wanting to work internationally to “go for it,” explaining how much the experience opened his eyes to see more perspectives of the world.

Coomes was also recently named Murray State University Homecoming King 2017. Additionally, he is the chapter president for Sigma Phi Epsilon, a student in the Honors College, a Presidential Fellow and a voluntary student ambassador.