• Image about Tom Walsh


Eleven-year-old Armando, who splashes with his three brothers, was diagnosed at age three with aplastic anemia, a condition in which the body fails to produce enough red blood cells. In order to survive, Armando would need a bone-marrow transplant. But then doctors discovered that his brothers were not a match. So his parents conceived another child in the hope that the infant would be a match. As it turns out, he was — but Armando nearly died while waiting for his new brother, named Josue, to mature enough in order to shed viable bone marrow.

To help these kids, Walsh butted heads with bureaucrats, scrambled tirelessly for resources and medical supplies, and made arrangements with doctors, hospitals, and American Airlines for the children to receive lifesaving care — not the usual job description for this self-described burger flipper.

Walsh is the founder of Dakota King, Inc., which operates Burger King and TCBY restaurants in the Dakotas and Minnesota. He began traveling to Los Cabos in 1994, and discovered during his visits that despite the highly developed tourism industry in Los Cabos, its health-care delivery system — especially for poor and needy children and families — was crude. There were no blood banks, cancer-treatment facilities, or pediatric oncologists to be found. Essentially, the children of Los Cabos who had debilitating diseases were doomed. “If [children are] diagnosed with cancer, they are told they are going to die, and they’re just sent home,” says Korey Riggs, president of the Los Cabos Children’s Foundation, an organization that Walsh established in 2005. “In the United States, we take for granted that we’ll be taken care of when we get sick.”