Gift of Life founder and Manhasset resident Robbie Donno and Barbara Donno, mayor of the Village of Plandome Manor, were honored by the American Red Cross of Long Island last Thursday with the Humanitarian Award for their dedication to improving lives both domestically and abroad.
Robbie Donno’s efforts, which started during his time as president of the Manhasset Rotary Club, have led to tens of thousands of life-saving heart surgeries for children across the globe, underscoring his commitment to alleviating suffering and enhancing the quality of human life. He said this mission began with a single child from Uganda and has since touched the lives of an expected 50,000 children by 2024 across 80 countries.
Barbara Donno’s contributions have been impactful in Manhasset schools and across the village. During her nine-year tenure as the president of the school board, she played a pivotal role in elevating the Manhasset school system to one of the best-rated high schools in the nation, her husband said.
The Humanitarian Award, introduced by Ali Jabbour, a committee member of the heroes’ celebration and chief communications and branding officer at Long Island University, recognizes individuals whose actions mirror the values of the Red Cross.
“The Humanitarian Award is given to those who have demonstrated enduring support to causes that lift up the quality of human life and alleviate suffering for those who need,” said Jabbour. “Through a long history of acts of personal and financial generosity and sacrifice, the awardees have made a meaningful difference in the lives of others.”
Robbie Donno accepted the award at the ceremony held in the Cradle of Aviation entrance way.
“When you intercede in somebody’s life, you make a difference to them,” Robbie Donno told the audience. “And that’s an indelible mark on their heart and in the spirit of which they live, your spirit lives on in them.”
Not only does it make a difference to those affected, but the generations that come, he said.
“It is truly humbling to be recognized for our efforts to make our community in the world a better place,” said Barbara Donno, noting the couple has been together for 56 years, after meeting at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.
“What a journey it has been,” she said of their mutual efforts, also thanking their children for supporting them through it all.
“Service has become a family affair and you’ve always understood and encouraged our efforts,” Barbara Donno said of their children, “You have enriched our lives in ways words cannot express.”
She also acknowledged the dedicated staff and board of trustees in the Village of Plandome Manor for their pivotal role in driving positive changes within their community.
Robbie Donno’s journey, rooted in the close-knit Manhasset community he grew up in where helping neighbors was a way of life, has always inspired him to make a difference in people’s lives. This ethos led him to join the Manhasset Rotary Club in 1971 and later become its president.
During his presidency, he laid the groundwork for the Gift of Life foundation, bringing 5-year-old girl Grace Agwaru from Uganda to St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn for life-saving surgery in 1975, the same year the organization was started.
Barbara Donno said she’s enjoyed “every minute” of serving as village mayor for 17 years. During her tenure, she has focused on improving infrastructure, zoning, and providing services to the residents of her village through improved roads, sanitation services, and enhanced quality of life.
“It’s great to be able to help our residents and to provide the services that our residents want and actually deserve,” she told Blank Slate Media.