Ethan Pierce's visit to a Chinese orphanage that cared for children with special needs changed his life. The 17-year-old Norwalk resident traveled to the China Care Home in Beijing and shared not only his compassion, but also his love of music, with the youngsters.

As a member of the St. Luke's School's China Cares Club in New Canaan, Ethan helped to organize a benefit craft fair that will take place at the school this Saturday, Feb. 12, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The snow date is Saturday, Feb. 19.

According to Katerina Kruzykowski, youth program coordinator for the Westport-based China Cares Foundation, the organization helps "the most vulnerable and at-risk babies" to have a better life. Founded in 2000 by Matt Dalio, a 16-year-old from Greewich who was moved by the plight of the Chinese orphans with medical needs, the China Cares Foundation also promotes young people's involvement in humanitarian efforts.

Partnering in 2009 with Half the Sky Foundation, another non-profit organization working to improve the lives of orphaned children in China, the China Care Home, a 24-hour pre- and post-operative medical facility that can serve about 80 children at any given time, opened in Beijing.

"The China Care Home provides medical care and nurture for infants and toddlers that suffer from mild to life threatening birth defects," Kruzykowski said. "While in our care, the children are watched over by specially trained nannies who wipe away their tears, patiently coax smiles onto their faces and embrace them with soothing hugs. After leaving The China Care Home, these children enter educational programs and long-term, family-oriented foster care through Half the Sky as they await adoption into loving families. At The China Care Home, these children who have lost their families and are fighting for their lives are never again alone in the world."

Observing the faces of the stricken babies and toddlers during time spent in China when he was 11, Dalio was inspired to create China Cares Foundation five years later. Pierce, too, was driven by the orphans' dire situation, and he joined a corps of volunteers that travels to China each summer to offer assistance.

More Information

Fact box

One of the highlights of the trip was when Pierce introduced some of the toddlers to the Beatles' music. He was amazed at their reaction upon hearing music from a classic band emitting from his mp3 player.

"I played `Here Comes the Sun,' a mainstay from my own toddlerhood," Pierce said. "After the opening riff, I immediately knew they liked it. All five of them got off the floor to dance. I was surprised, entranced and intrigued. This `western' music elicited the same response in these children as it did for me when my parents introduced me to the Beatles."

Pierce said he couldn't believe a Chinese baby with serious medical conditions and no parents, and living 6,000 miles away from his own Norwalk residence, could enjoy the same kind of music that he did. Kruzykowski said that the China Care Foundation has grown in large part due to the support offered by high school and college clubs run by young people, such as Pierce.

"St. Luke's China Care Club is one of these amazingly dedicated local student groups who support our cause," she said. "Over the last five years the students at St. Luke's have been instrumental in helping us save the lives of orphaned children in need by fundraising, raising awareness and by volunteering in China."

This weekend's crafts fair is an example of the student's hard work and dedication to this cause. More than 50 local artisans and crafters will display handmade items including jewelry, paintings, pottery, crocheted wares and decorative home decor. There will be various types of food available, such as kettle corn, chocolate covered strawberries, breads, jams and pizza. There will also be Chinese dumplings prepared by the students. Coordinated by local teens, this family-friendly event will also feature a Kids Zone Arts and Crafts area with face painting and the opportunity to make Valentine's Day gifts.

Pierce was thrilled to act as a "bridge between cultures" last summer. "The China Care experience taught me responsibility for my fellow man," he said. "Despite dramatically different customs and rampant nationalism from both sides of the Pacific, the inherent innocence within each toddler transported my moral system back to its early stages where good always conquers evil, and simplicity has perpetual refuge."

Joined by St. Luke's China Care Club President Bobby Hamill, of New Canaan, Pierce is committed to helping Chinese orphans receive the emotional and physical care they need.

"I am positive I will never forget my time at the China Care Home," Pierce said.

St. Luke's School is located at 277 North Wilton Road, New Canaan. For more information about China Care Foundation, visit Donations can be sent to China Care Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 607, Westport, CT 06880.