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Parkite hosts fundraiser supporting burn and reconstructive surgeries in Nepal

The 2023 Nepal Cleft and Burn Center fundraiser in Midway.
Nepal Cleft & Burn Center
The 2023 Nepal Cleft and Burn Center fundraiser in Midway.

Park City local and founder of the Nepal Cleft and Burn Center is raising funds to continue helping children at the hospital.

The Nepal Cleft and Burn Center is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Salt Lake City. It’s touted as Nepal’s leading burn treatment center and its first and foremost teaching hospital for burns and cleft palate surgeries.

Jim Webber, a Park City resident and longtime KPCW supporter, established the center through his work selling rugs. Webber has operated Foothill Oriental Rugs in Salt Lake since 1985. He would buy rugs in India to sell back in Utah and while there decided to visit Kathmandu, Nepal.

In Kathmandu, Webber met Tibetan refugees who owned a carpet factory and started the Tibet Rug Company with the refugees.

“I spent a lot of time in my factory in Katmandu, and it's just an amazing place, Nepal, it became my spiritual home,” Webber said.

Wanting to give back to the community, he, other rug importers and private donors established the Nepal Cleft and Burn Center in 2002. The hospital completed in 2014 specializes in deformity-corrective reconstructive surgery including cleft palates.

“I didn't even realize the scope of the burns problem until we got this hospital up and running," Webber said. "But burns in third world countries where half the population cooks over open fires are a huge problem.”

Webber said the center saw 450 burn patients last year. He said the burn ward is overwhelmed so the nonprofit is working to build a $1.5 million hospital in southeastern Nepal where the largest percentage of out-of-area patients come from.

The nonprofit is hosting its annual fundraiser in Salt Lake this month with the goal of $100,000. More than 95% of funds go directly to the project, he said.

“The fundraiser is our main source of income because, like I said, we're just a small grassroots organization and we don't have a paid staff,” Webber said.

The event is May 10 at Salt Lake’s Natural History Museum. A $135 ticket includes food, a social hour, silent auction and live band. Webber and the Nepal hospital’s lead physician will speak. There’s also a free bus from Park City to the event for those who would like to participate.