Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity

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The Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity
Founded2 March 1993; 31 years ago (1993-03-02)
FounderJerzy Owsiak
Legal statusNon-profit organization/charity organization
PurposeRaising funds for the healthcare system in Poland
HeadquartersWarsaw, Poland

The Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity (GOCC, Polish Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy, WOŚP) is the biggest, non-governmental, non-profit, charity organization in Poland raising money for pediatric and elderly care.[1][2] The GOCC Foundation holds American Heart Association certification to provide courses in CPR and AED, and for the use of high technology for medical lifesaving. The GOCC aims to support health care in Poland by purchase of state of the art medical equipment for Polish hospitals and clinics and by establishing and running six medical programmes and one educational programme. The foundation supports pediatric and geriatric wards, furnishing them in both complex medical devices such as MRI scanners, and providing long-term care units with anti-bedsore mattresses and beds.[3]

Since April 2016 the GOCC ranks on the top of the list as the most trusted public entity according to Brand Asset Valuator and is the second strongest brand in Poland in the ranking compiled by Millward Brown and Young & Rubicam agency.[4] The GOCC foundation organizes the biggest open-air free entry music festival in EuropePol'and'Rock Festival.[5] The GOCC foundation offers first aid and team building courses, which are open to all adult members of public. The volunteers who have completed the training become the members of Peace Patrol, whose duties involve stewarding at the festival field, assisting and informing festival goers.

The charity has been the subject of smear campaigns by then-ruling Law and Justice party, however, its fundraising tripled from 2015 to 2019. According to a survey by Gazeta Wyborcza it is the most-trusted Polish organization.[6][7]


The name The Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity was coined by Jerzy Owsiak in 1993. The charity was officially founded in 1993 by Jerzy Owsiak, Lidia Niedźwiedzka-Owsiak, Bohdan Maruszewski, and Piotr Burczyński.[8] The main objective, at that time, was "Protecting Health and Saving Children's Lives by Providing Medical Equipment to Public Hospitals" (as stated in the deed of foundation). During the first Finale (which was organized for the benefit of paediatric cardiac-surgery) in the same year, the Foundation collected a total of USD 1,535,440.68. Subsequently, what was intended to be one-time fundraiser to aid Children's Memorial Health Institute in Warsaw became an annual public fundraiser held across the country. In 2004 the GOCC raised money for the victims of tsunami in Sri Lanka. In 2010, after southern Poland has been struck by flooding a special fundraiser was held in aid of flood relief.

Every year, millions of Poles donate to the Foundation and throughout 24 Grand Finales, the Foundation collected over $130 million for cardiac-surgery, neonatology, paediatric oncology, kidney diseases, congenital disorders, newborns and children under 5 years of age who have been victims of accidents .[9] Since 2013 the GOCC has been raising funds to support geriatric and long-term care units in Poland.[10]

During the 27th Grand Finale concert in Gdańsk on 13 January 2019, Mayor of Gdańsk Paweł Adamowicz was stabbed on stage. He died the following day after undergoing over five hours of surgery in a hospital.[11][12] After Adamowicz's death, Jerzy Owsiak announced that he would be stepping down as the chairman of the GOCC.[13]

A wave of support came from millions of people with the hashtag #MuremZaOwsiakiem trending (translated as #WeStandWithOwsiak) and hundreds of thousands of people signing a petition for Owsiak to remain the chairman of GOCC. Many pleas from celebrities, social activists, men of science, artists and religious activists were sent to Owsiak, begging that he stay the chairman of GOCC. After the funeral of Paweł Adamowicz, Jerzy posted a video on his Facebook page saying that he was overwhelmed by the support and that he would not step down as the chairman of GOCC. He made a promise to Paweł Adamowicz that the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity would be playing for eternity and one day longer.

The Grand Finale[edit]

Since the 7th Grand Finale in 1999, the Grand Finale fundraiser has continuously taken place on the second Sunday of January, with the exception of the 9th, 25th, 29th and 30th Grand Finale in 2001, 2017, 2021 and 2022 respectively.[14] The 29th Grand Finale in 2021 was post-poned by three weeks due to COVID-19. The day-long public fundraiser is held in Poland and everywhere where there is an active Polish community.[15] The public fundraiser is organised locally, by volunteer-run Collection Centres, and is accompanied by various events such as concerts, sporting competitions, and firework displays. A telethon, broadcast nationally, is held on the day as well.[16] Volunteers, carrying branded collection boxes collect money across the country, and people donating money receive distinct red-heart stickers in return.[17] The day culminates with a firework display - known as Light to the Sky, which takes place in front of the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw. The funds are being raised during a public money collection, in online auctions,[18][19] and personal and corporate donations.[20]

Each Grand Finale has a specific medical objective, which is implemented by the foundation after consultations with medical professionals. In order to receive aid from the foundation, the hospitals apply for devices that achieve the stated objective. The equipment is bought by the foundation during an open tender.

Finale Date Fundraiser Aim Funds raised
(in USD) (in 2023 USD)
I January 3, 1993 Children's cardio-surgery 1,535,440.68 3,238,538.32
II January 2, 1994 Neonatology 1,930,726.93 3,968,957.29
III January 8, 1995 Pediatric oncology 2,816,465.36 5,631,700.55
IV January 7, 1996 Rescue of accident victims 2,543,413.59 4,941,119.21
V January 5, 1997 Children's cardio-surgery 3,062,067.29 5,811,834.18
VI January 4, 1998 Rescue of accident victims 3,543,276.74 6,623,569.18
VII January 10, 1999 Neonatology 4,515,020.82 8,257,996.53
VIII January 9, 2000 Children's kidney diseases 6,089,390.91 10,773,809.31
IX January 7, 2001 Newborns and children under 5 y/o 6,112,642.74 10,518,202.77
X January 13, 2002 Congenital defects 6,848,998.85 11,602,115.35
XI January 12, 2003 Newborns and children under 5 y/o 7,695,614.16 12,746,208.98
XII January 11, 2004 Newborns and children under 5 y/o 6,923,443.22 11,168,260.42
XIII January 9, 2005 Progressive methods of diagnostics and treatment in neonatology and pediatrics 9,864,292.87 15,388,901.95
XIV January 8, 2006 Saving lives of children injured in accidents / teaching CPR and first aid 9,660,691.63 14,601,071.73
XV January 14, 2007 Saving lives of children injured in accidents / CPR education 10,276,156.07 15,100,061.78
XVI January 13, 2008 Children with otolaryngological conditions 13,883,627.13 19,647,370.94
XVII January 11, 2009 Prevention and early diagnosis of cancer in children 13,404,441.27 19,036,926.36
XVIII January 10, 2010 Prevention and early diagnosis of cancer in children 14,413,466.03 20,138,821.15
n/a July 4, 2010 Special Finale: "Prevent Flooding!" 805,662.73 1,125,690.21
XIX January 9, 2011 Urological and kidney diseases 16,499,157.81 22,347,084.16
XX January 8, 2012 The purchase of life-saving equipment for preemies and insulin pumps 16,219,987.60 21,526,338.09
XXI January 13, 2013 Saving the lives of children and providing adequate healthcare for the elderly 16,432,382.15 21,493,555.85
XXII January 12, 2014 Saving the lives of children and providing adequate healthcare for the elderly 17,224,553.53 22,168,683.18
XXIII January 11, 2015 Treatment of children in paediatric and oncology wards and dignified medical treatment of the elderly 14,011,311.90[21] 18,010,328.76
XXIV January 10, 2016 Treatment of children in paediatric and oncology wards and dignified medical treatment of the elderly 18,397,947.76[22] 23,357,128.35
XXV January 15, 2017 Saving children's life and health in general wards and providing decent medical care to seniors 25,919,212.58[23] 32,217,799.4
XXVI January 14, 2018 Improvement of health care for newborns 37,157,837.21 45,085,761.66
XXVII January 13, 2019 Newest equipment for children hospitals 46,969,597.29 55,974,701.65
January 19, 2019 Special raise for the Fr. Eugeniusz Dutkiewicz SAC Hospice during mayor Adamowicz's funeral
January 23, 2019 Special raise after the mayor of Gdańsk was killed on stage during 27th Grand Finale†[24] 4,239,303.42 5,052,071.08
XXVIII January 12, 2020 For clinical care of children 48,852,683.82 57,515,130.91
XXIX January 31, 2021 Laryngology, otolaryngology and head diagnostics 56,518,453.11 63,549,423.64
XXX January 30, 2022 Pediatric ophthalmology 51,850,158.04 53,984,540.26
XXXI January 29, 2023 Medical equipment for early diagnosis of the bacterial infection that causes sepsis 56,658,915.37[25] -
XXXII January 28, 2024 "Lungs after pandemic" 70,653,572.87[26] -
TOTAL: 623,529,913.48 USD
769,916,191.44 in 2023 USDA
^A For years after 2023 nominal values are used.

Medical programmes[edit]

The GOCC Foundation runs four medical programs and one educational programme. The programmes are in action all-year long and are introduced to hospitals and clinics nationwide, because the foundation aims to systematically improve public healthcare in Poland.

  • National Early Cancer Diagnostics in Children Programme - establishing a nationwide network of diagnostics centres aiming to detect cancer in children at an early stage. Another aim of the programme is to equip Poland’s key paediatric oncology wards with state of the art devices. The programme also includes awareness campaigns aimed at both doctors and parents.
  • Universal Infant Hearing Screening Programme – free hearing tests of newborns in neonatology wards. The program is implemented in all wards across the country and allows to diagnose if a newborn child has any hearing defects and needs extensive tests to subsequent hearing aids.
  • The Retinopathy of Prematurity Prevention and Treatment Program – diagnosis and treatment of children whose retina has been damaged due to premature birth.
  • Non-Invasive Breathing Support in Neonates Programme - “Infant Flow” – The program’s goal is to lower the number cases in which mechanical ventilation of premature babies and newborns is needed, because mechanical ventilation often leads to severe pulmonary complications.
  • Programme for Personal Insulin Pump Treatment of Pregnant Diabetic Women - The program is aimed at purchasing insulin pumps which give pregnant women the chance for an active and an easier life with diabetes.
  • National Program for Personal Insulin Pump Treatment of Diabetic Children - within the scope of this program purchases insulin pumps which give children a chance for an easier and more active life despite diabetes.

Educational programme[edit]

The GOCC runs an educational programme known as 'We Save and Teach How to Save Lives' aimed at teaching children in primary schools the basis of CPR and first aid. Primary schools, which participate in the programme receive free teaching aids and the designated teachers are trained by certified AHA instructors.


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  2. ^ "XXII Finale of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity". Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  3. ^ "Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity 2016 Wroclaw |". Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  4. ^ "Ptasie Mleczko, WOŚP i złoty najsilniejszymi markami w Polsce, TVN najwyżej z mediów". Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  5. ^ "Woodstock Festival (Przystanek Woodstock)". Retrieved 2016-09-02.
  6. ^ Bill, Stanley (16 September 2020). "Counter-Elite Populism and Civil Society in Poland: PiS's Strategies of Elite Replacement:". East European Politics and Societies. doi:10.1177/0888325420950800.
  7. ^ Sieradzka, Monika (15 January 2019). "Why Poland's government is up in arms about a children's charity". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 29 October 2020.
  8. ^ "Polish 'Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity' kicks off despite conservative opposition". Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  9. ^ "'Orchestra' collects millions for kids". Radio Poland. Warsaw: Radio Poland. 2014-01-13. Retrieved 2015-01-10. This year, the main goals were to raise money for equipment on emergency wards for children, as well as to continue last year's bid to create better geriatric care in Poland.
  10. ^ "Charity 'orchestra' raises millions for kids and elderly". Retrieved 2016-09-02.
  11. ^ Davies, Christian (14 January 2019). "Mayor of Polish city dies after stabbing at charity event". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  12. ^ "Pawel Adamowicz, Gdansk mayor, dies after stabbing". BBC News. 14 January 2019. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  13. ^ "Jerzy Owsiak: Składam rezygnację z funkcji prezesa WOŚP". Wyborcza (in Polish). 14 January 2019. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  14. ^ "utopia-500". utopia-500. Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  15. ^ "Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity 2016". Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  16. ^ wielkabrytania, praktykant. "London - 22. Finale of The Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity". Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  17. ^ "It's WOŚP Weekend in Poland: Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity Finale gets Underway |". Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  18. ^ "Prime Minister for the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity". Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  19. ^ "Internet auctions raising money for WOŚP". Retrieved 2016-09-02.
  20. ^ "Millions raised in annual Polish fundraising bash". Retrieved 2016-09-02.
  21. ^ "Record donations for WOŚP charity drive". Radio Poland. Warsaw: Radio Poland. 2015-03-09. Retrieved 2015-03-09. Speaking to Polish Radio on Monday morning, WOŚP founder Jurek Owsiak thanked Poles for their generosity, announcing that the exact figure raised amounted to PLN 53,109,172.83.
  22. ^ "Podczas 24. Finału WOŚP zebraliśmy 72 696 501,53 PLN!" [24. During the Final WOŚP collected 72 696 501.53 PLN!] (Press release). Poland: Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity. 2016-03-07. Retrieved 2016-03-08. The amount declared at the end of 24. Final WOŚP: 44 047 594 PLN during the 24th Final WOŚP collected: 72 696 501.53 PLN including orchestral auctions collected: 4 449 705.66 PLN
  23. ^ "Znamy wynik 25. Finału WOŚP! - aktualności -". (in Polish). Retrieved 2018-01-14.
  24. ^ "Do "Ostatniej puszki pana prezydenta dla WOŚP" trafiło prawie 16 mln zł".
  25. ^ "Narodowy Bank Polski kurs walut". Retrieved 2023-04-02.
  26. ^ "Jerzy Owsiak podsumował 32. Finał WOŚP. Ile zebrała Orkiestra?". TVN24 (in Polish). 27 March 2024. Retrieved 27 March 2024.