Singing for Shriners Reaches New Heights, Hospital Shows Appreciation

In 2012, the University of South Florida chapter of the Theta Chi fraternity had a wonderful idea for a philanthropy event that would provide fundraising for a worthwhile cause. The event would also intend to provide incredible entertainment for all involved. Theta Chi focused on the local community and realized that they could help bring funding and awareness to the Shriners Hospitals for Children-Tampa located on USF’s campus.

Groups, primarily from the Greek community, collaborate in order to select two songs to be performed on the day of the event. This year, the concert had the most registered groups ever, with 10 female performances and 5 male performances competing for the title of champions.

So where does the fundraising come in? That process begins months before the actual day of the event. Each group contributes a registration fee and is expected to make an effort to raise funds from the USF community by encouraging t-shirt and ticket sales. The higher the funds raised, more points are added to the overall performance scores at Singing for Shriners.

When performance day came along, the Theta Chi brothers experienced an unexpected dilemma, as the audience reached maximum capacity in the theatre. Of all the problems that they could have faced this was a welcome one.

Jessica Hill, the Public Relations Specialist at Shriners-Tampa, was front and center for the show, even speaking on behalf of the hospital to the crowd.

“It means so much to have the support”, she said. “Theta Chi, in doing this, is helping to send love to the rescue for so many kids in our area.”

USF student Ally Lindsay has been attending the event for several years and she said that although it’s always nice to have a night full of entertainment, having representatives from the Hospital in attendance, “It'[s] a very important part of the event because you can see these people and see where all the money that everyone’s raising is going to.”

The performances didn’t disappoint and the crowd was enthralled from beginning to end. Perhaps the best part of the evening was finishing off the event with Theta Chi handing over a check to Shriner’s Hospital for $11,000.

Eckerd Kids’ Friends of the Children program becomes first to only work with foster care kids

For over 20 years, Eckerd Kids has been helping at-risk youth in the Tampa community.

Their Friends of the Children program provides these youths with a professional mentor to work with them through life. The mentors begin their work with the students when they are in kindergarten or first grade, and they remain with the students through to their high school graduation.

“I love the role I’m working in now,”said Justin Goldsmith, one of Eckerd’s professional mentors. “I wake up every morning and I thank God for putting me in this predicament to help the youth.”

Friends of the Children is the first program to work exclusively with kids in the foster care system. Many of the students that are chosen for this program are considered the most vulnerable students in their area.

“When I was 4, I didn’t have any friends. I was all by myself,” said Kaden Figueras, 7, a student in the Eckerd program for two years. “Now I’m being a leader and having fun.”

The program has nine mentors working with over 60 students across Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties.

“I just want to let the youth know that they can be leaders, or they can be whatever they want to in life,”Goldsmith said.

USF BASEBALL FIGHTS CANCER ON THE FIELD

For the second straight year, the USF Baseball team partnered up with the V.S. Cancer Foundation to shave their heads in order to raise money in support of the fight against childhood cancer.

“It’s such a great thing to do. Hopefully we make a small dent in conquering this disease someday,” said Mark Kingston, head coach of the USF Baseball team. “We’ll always want to do our part.”

It takes a lot of passion and a lot of drive to make it to the division one level, let alone be successful. The Bulls channel that same energy to give back and help others.

“We have it so good,” Kingston said. “To be able to give back to children that are battling terrible diseases like this, it’s important to gain that perspective.”

This event hits especially close to home for pitching coach Billy Mohl, who lost his wife to cancer in 2013.

“I promised my wife when she passed away that I would do something in terms of raising money for cancer research,” Mohl said. “I can think of no better way to do it than on a baseball field with all these guys.”

There were 74 other schools around the country who participated in this year’s V.S. Cancer fundraiser. The Bulls raised more than $11,000, the eighth most out of any school.

The proceeds will be split between the V.S. Cancer Foundation and Tampa General Hospital.

Walking for a Cause

The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life may be about raising money for cancer research, but it also honors those who have been affected by the disease.

Relay for Life events around the nation give survivors a chance to celebrate their good health with event activities such as the Survivor Lap. This lap opens every Relay for Life event around the country.

“Whenever you take a lap around for the Survivor Lap, everyone is just cheering you on and there’s all this positive energy just, like, hope for survival,” said caregiver Genevieve Rodriguez. “It’s just a great atmosphere.”

Cancer survivors receive a special T-shirt and sash to wear during the duration of the event so that everyone knows they have overcome the disease.

Their caregivers also receive a commemorative sash to wear.

“Now as a survivor of an insidious breast cancer, which could come back at any time, to be considered a survivor is a wonderful miracle,” said survivor Eileen Golisz.

Luminary bags are another way that Relay for Life participants can honor family and friends that are continuing to fight or have died of cancer.

Each bag is decorated and then lined up along the track. They are lit with candles during the Luminaria Ceremony that takes place at night along with a silent lap, where participants walk the track in silence to memorialize loved ones who have died of cancer.

To learn more about Relay for Life and its contributions to the American Cancer Society, visit www.relayforlife.org.

How a nationwide nonprofit organization is helping Tampa

Proclaiming that they are the “first name in second chances,” Eckerd is a nationwide nonprofit organization that focuses on providing solutions that help struggling families and young adults thrive.

At the Eckerd Achievement Academy office in downtown Tampa, teachers Stephen Zambito and Tamara Johnson are just some of the staff that has been hired to teach some at-risk teens in the Tampa Bay community. Through this program their goal is to obtain their high school or GED diploma when traditional schooling options are no longer an option.

Johnson and Zambito create a safe place for these students who often come from broken homes and were children of the foster care system. Many of the students love it at Eckerd and consider it a family type atmosphere.

Every job comes with its ups and downs. Johnson said the hardest part of this particular job is getting attached to the students. “These kids are like my own and it’s really hard when one day they are here and the next day they are gone.” She also said that when they lack motivation it is hard to steer them in the right direction.

Zambito expressed the same sentiment saying, “Over the ten years I have done this I have definitely learned patience.”

Eckerd not only provides high school and GED diploma services, but also juvenile justice, child welfare, and behavioral health services for those in need. For more information about Eckerd please visit Eckerd.org or call 800-554-HELP.

 

 

 

 

Tampa Bay residents Walk Like MADD to end drunken driving

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is an organization that was founded in 1980 by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver. MADD introduced designated driver programs as a solution to drinking and driving, which brought the organization more exposure and awareness to the importance of not driving under the influence. The MADD West Central Florida affiliate was created 32 years ago in Hillsborough County to further educate the community on the preventable issue.

MADD Hillsborough hosted an annual Walk Like MADD fundraising event. Their goal was to raise money for the victims of the community and to remember the lives lost. There were vendors as well as music and games to get the community excited about coming out for MADD’s 3-mile walk.

Sgt. Jason Napoli is in charge of the Hillsborough County DUI Enforcement squad; he has seen a significant response to what MADD is doing.

“Well they’re important because we’re recognizing the victims of drunk driving and celebrating the work that mothers against drunk driving does here in the community,” Napoli said.

Along with fundraising, MADD is making other strides to improve the issue. They work heavily with the Sheriff’s Office and other organizations to keep the roadways safe.

“MADD has partnered with Uber to make ride sharing a more convenient option after late nights partying,” said Daniel Mayer, an Uber representative. “Our overall mission is to just provide a safer alternative for people trying to get home safe after drinking.”

MADD has made significant progress with education and the community but their executive board feels there is a lot more work to do with regards to preventing the crime.

MADD Hillsborough County is always accepting donations and volunteers; for more information visit http://www.madd.org/fl/westcentralfl

 

 

USF NAVIGATORS DRAW STUDENTS CLOSER TO FAITH

Among a list of hundreds of student organizations on campus, one feels its message is especially life-changing. The USF Navigators are a non-denominational community of students with a mission to grow in their relationship with God and to impact the world around them.

“It’s bringing you into fellowship more, helping you grow in your faith more and teaching you how to dissect the Bible and understand the overall meaning,” Monica Pritchard said.

The group achieves this fellowship in a few ways. This past spring break, the USF Navigators went on a service trip to Atlanta, Ga. On a more local scale, they meet Wednesday nights in room 3707 of the Marshall Student Center for Nav Night.

Additionally, they host different Bible studies throughout the week, participate in intramural sports together and share in fellowship through different extracurricular activities.

“Bible studies are just a great way for students to grow closer to the Lord and closer to each other as they pursue the Lord together,” said Luc Lawrence, a USF Navigators staff member.

Most recently, the USF Navigators held a night of worship, where a student band played songs of praise. Those in attendance were welcome to come and worship as they felt called to. In the fall, the group will be transitioning to a new campus director, Andrew Duran, as the current director Chris Gatlyn moves to Virginia.

“It’s a good atmosphere, it’s good people and it’s a good purpose,” Pritchard said.

 

Author James Morrow gives lecture at USF

On Monday, March 21, 2016 renowned science fiction author, James Morrow, will be visiting USF to discuss his new novel, “Galapagos Regained”.

Morrow will be giving a lecture on the fourth floor of USF’s library at 6:00 p.m. where he will discuss issues of science, religion, and pop culture. Joining Morrow will be fellow science fiction author and USF professor, Rick Wilbur.

“I’ve been in the science fiction community for a long time,” said Wilbur. “Getting Morrow to do this lecture was as easy as some scheduling and making phone calls to a comrade.”

After a small amount of aligning schedules between Wilbur, the university, and Morrow, the author is set to discuss his latest novel as a part of USF’s humanities institute’s lecture series.

“I urge all students who can make it to attend Morrow’s lecture,” said Wilbur. “He’s an incredible author and this is a great opportunity to discuss contemporary issues with a knowledgeable professional.”

Morrow, a self-proclaimed scientific humanist, is an author famous for his unconventional historical novels, which often examine the intertwining concepts of religion and science. His latest novel, “Galapagos Regained” plot centers on a Victorian adventurer who decides to repeat the voyages of Charles Darwin.

Anyone, whether a student, faculty or community member, will be able to attend both Morrow’s lecture and the event’s reception and book signing free of cost.

USF Fraternity Hits the Field for Charity

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjpF0aLaODY

A USF fraternity is in the news, and it’s for all of the right reasons.

USF’s Sigma Nu chapter hosted their 6th annual Sigma Nu White Rose Bowl Flag Football Tournament. The event brings allows USF sororities to compete and help raise money for St. Jude Children Hospital.

“As a community for Greek life we are really big on supporting one another and the charities we support,” said Haley Von Harten, captain of the Zeta Tau Alpha flag football team.

Throughout the event Sigma Nu hosted multiple other fundraisers to further their cause. Over the last two years, the guys have donated over $30,000 to St. Jude from the White Rose Bowl.

“This event is a big part of Sigma Nu’s National Helping Hand Initiative,” Sigma Nu President Dustin Winship said, “It aims at raising funds and awareness of St. Jude and all the awesome research that they do.”

Other than their own event, Sigma Nu will also compete in other philanthropy events in the Greek life community. They will continue to support St. Jude, as well as other charities like the Ronald McDonald house, through these events.

“ I’m really grateful to be able to be here and help raise money for St. Jude,” Von Harten said.

Bulls for Kids dances for dollars

William Purkey said, “You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching.” Bulls for Kids President Tiffani Torres and over 1,300 participants embraced dancing for charity during Dance Marathon at the USF Marshall Student Center.

“All the hard work that I’ve done, and all the tears and all the stress is worth it because no matter what I’m going through right now it could be a lot worse,” Torres said. “What I’m going through is making what they’re going through a lot easier.”

Dance Marathon has members shake it for 12 hours while raising money for the All Children’s Hospitals across the country. What began as a small fundraiser 13 years ago has now turned into USF’s largest student-run philanthropy. Dance Marathon has continued to grow with every donation amount higher than the year before.

By the end of the day, Bulls for Kids collected over $130,000. That’s $27,000 more than last year’s record. Torres knows it’s not just about the money. The event’s real purpose comes from the emotional stories of the miracle children.

Alyson Schuch served as the director of family relations and was able to work hands-on with the miracle families throughout the year. Although the donations are great, Schuch said her satisfaction comes from seeing the children’s smiling faces.

“Not everyone realizes the huge impact that we have on the families,” Schuch said. “When they do come and they speak and they give their thanks, it’s like very eye-opening to everyone.”

With such a large total collected this year, Bulls for Kids hopes to raise over $200,000 next year.

Clearwater Comic Con: comics, anime and much more

Clearwater, FL-On March 19 at the Clearwater Public Library, comic and gaming enthusiasts came together for the third annual Clearwater Comic Con. This was a free event for all who attended. There was a myriad of booths and activities that catered to many interests, such as comics, gaming and anime.

The Clearwater Main Library is located at 100 N. Osceola Ave. Within these walls, geeks of all sorts gather to share their passions.
The Clearwater Library is located at 100 N. Osceola Ave. Within these walls, people of all sorts gather to share their passions. By Shelbi Hayes
Outside of the Clearwater Main Library sits the Suncoast Ghost Busters' Ectomobile. This is a modern day replica of the original Ectomobile, or Ecto-1, used in the original Ghost Busters movies.
Outside of the Clearwater Library sits the Suncoast Ghost Busters’ Ectomobile. This is a modern day replica of the original Ectomobile, or Ecto-1, used in the original Ghost Busters movies. By Shelbi Hayes
The 501st Legion, a Star Wars fan group that recreates characters of the series, travels around to conventions. Eden Fraizer, a double-major in physics and dance at the University of Tampa, and Dorothy Harrison, a University of South Florida master's student, cosplay Padme Amidala and a red Storm Trooper.
The 501st Legion, a Star Wars fan group recreates characters of the series, travels around to conventions. Eden Fraizer, a double major in physics and dance at the University of Tampa, and Dorothy Harrison, a University of South Florida master’s student, cosplay Padme Amidala and a red Storm Trooper. By Shelbi Hayes
While fun and games are key to Clearwater Comic Con, Gamers on the Edge brings charity into the main room. GOTE, which has raised over $20,000, holds gaming events in the Tampa Bay area to donate money to local children's hospitals. The gaming group will hold a large tournament to collect more donations on May 15.
While fun and games are key to Clearwater Comic Con, Gamers on the Edge (GOTE) brings charity into the main room. GOTE, which has raised over $20,000, for charity, holds gaming events in the Tampa Bay area to donate money to local children’s hospitals. By Shelbi Hayes
Brian Johnson is a one-man prop-making company out of Clearwater, Fl. His booth showcases his recreations of popular video game weapons as well as customized Nerf guns. "I work 90 hours a week and I'm not sick of it," Johnson said.
Brian Johnson is a one man, prop-making company out of Clearwater, FL. His booth showcases his recreations of popular video game weapons as well as customized Nerf guns. “I work 90 hours a week and I’m not sick of it,” Johnson said. By Shelbi Hayes
Kaitlyn Little showcases her ability to recreate the Borderlands character, Psycho, and stay in character in the final event of the comic con, the cosplay competition. "The voices," Little said when the competition host asked her why she chose this character, a nod to the character's personalty.
Kaitlyn Little showcases her ability to recreate the Borderlands character, Psycho, in the final event of the comic con, the cosplay competition. “The voices,” Little said when asked why she chose this character, was a nod to the character’s personalty. Little took first place. By Shelbi Hayes

Global Medical and Dental Brigades hosts Bubble Soccer Tournament to Fundraise Annual Mission Trip

The Global Medical and Dental Brigades has been a student-run organization at The University of South Florida for many years now. Each year, they plan a fundraising event for their annual medical mission trip and this year was no exception.

In 2015, members were able to raise almost $40,000 and travel Nicaragua together. They hope to reach the same goal this year to get them to Honduras in May.

Although the mission trips last only nine days, their fundraising events begin early in the school year. They collect medical and hygienic supplies to bring with them and they participate in health and safety courses. The members also take part in everyday biomedical science courses to prepare them for assisting at clinics with health officials.

Member and medication chair for the organization, Kristin DeMayo, was proud to play a huge part in planning their first, of hopefully many, Bubble Soccer Tournament.

“It will be a comprehensive public health mission trip while we’re there,” she said.

The trip will include service projects like building sidewalks and outhouses.

At the tournament, teams of four suited up in large, plastic Body Zorb bubble suits to play five minute games against each other.

“[I] bruised some knees but it’s for a great cause,” Sara Galvis, a participant, said.

The Global Medical and Dental Brigades is already thinking of ways to make the tournament bigger and better for next year.

‘Make your own’ style at Florida Strawberry Festival

The Florida Strawberry Festival is the talk of the town in Plant City, but the talk of festival, is the “Make Your Own” Strawberry Shortcake booth. Whether you want cake or a biscuit, or little or a lot of whipped topping, Saint Clement Catholic Church gives visitors the chance to make their perfect shortcake. 

Saint Clement’s booth is one of the three booths that sell shortcake on the festival grounds. The “Make Your Own” style is what makes the church’s booth stand out from the rest. With the help from parishioners and volunteers, the booth has been running for 43 years. The organization has two coordinators that make sure the project continues to be successful. 

“I think it’s an astounding event and I love to be a part of it.”, said co-coordinator, Paul Hetrick. 

Hetrick has been a coordinator for three years, but has volunteered since 1987. His hard work and dedication to the project would not be complete without his co-coordinator, Kevin McFaul and committee. 

“The committee, it just makes this whole thing smooth. I mean there are just so many things going on. That are a part of this operation.”, Hetrick said. “And as coordinators, we are not necessarily checking up on them on a regular basis. They’re taking care of, because the people that are running them are autonomous.” 

There are over a 150 volunteers that contribute to the success of the booth. The committee and volunteers spend many hours of their day preparing berries, washing buckets, and working the booth at the festival. Some volunteers, like Joseph Herrmann, have been helping out since the project first began. 

“I’ve been here since the start. 43 years.”, Herrmann said. “And the first day we actually cut berries by hand with the prairie knives.” 

Now, there are machines that cut and wash the berries, which makes the process easier. 

Hetrick hopes that people visiting the festival not only get a delicious shortcake, but a friendly and welcoming experience. 

The booth is running all 11 days of the festival. Tickets are four dollars and can be bought at eight different Publix locations beforehand.

 

Spicing up Valentine’s Day for our veterans

 

Love is in the air, and it’s also in the alley.

Zephyrhills resident Tami Beverlin has started a campaign called Valentines for Veterans. The effort focuses on making valentines for wounded veterans at James A. Haley Veteran’s Hospital in Tampa. Beverlin’s idea culminated in this event at Pin Chasers. Kids of all ages were invited to participate.

“I wanted to do something for the older vets that are at the nursing homes and the ones that are coming back, the ones that are in the hospital,” Beverlin said. “Just to say, you know, ‘we appreciate you.’”

Each participant received a free game of bowling for taking part in the initiative. Beverlin was encouraged to have the event here by her daughter Aubrey Ogilbee, who’s also the bowling center’s general manager.

“There’s no better person to work with than family that you love and care about,” Ogilbee said. “You know each other. There’s, you know, no communication issues because you already know exactly how you each communicate and what your strengths and weaknesses are.”

Beverlin collected over 800 cards throughout the month-long campaign. She hopes the event becomes annual so veterans can continue to feel this love for years to come.

“You don’t feel like you can do anything,” Beverlin said. “You can do something. You can just get involved in your own community. You can start changing the ‘I’ thinking to the ‘we’ thinking.”

The Cinderella Project Of Pasco County

The Cinderella Project of Pasco County is offering free prom dresses and accessories to students on a budget.

The organization has over 1,200 dresses to offer to any girl that isn’t able to purchase a dress of their own. The dresses come in both small and larger sizes.

“It just takes one. That one special girl to walk in and they don’t want to take the dress off,” said organizer Julie Rockwell. “It just takes one to come up and give you a hug at the end and tell you ‘thank you’.”

Along with dresses, there are also donated shoes, purses and jewelry for girls to browse through and match to their dress.

“I like giving back to the community,” said volunteer Laura Luter. “Seeing them have joy over finding the right dress for them, they know it immediately, and that’s the reward.”

The non-profit organization has been holding Cinderella boutiques around Pasco for the past 13 years.

Each boutique’s location is donated to the project for free.

“It’s important that they experience prom because it’s a chance at one night maybe out of the year that they get to really dress up and feel beautiful,” Rockwell said. “I would hate to see any girl be able to go because she couldn’t afford a dress or a pair of shoes or some jewelry.”

The last boutique is taking place this Saturday, March 12 in at 38022 River Road in Dade City from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Parking for booty during Gasparilla

Henry Sutter outside the Business Law Group
Henry Sutter outside the Business Law Group, P.A.
Sherry Cook fundraising for the Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind.
Sherry Cook fundraising for the Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Along West Platt Street, people were profiting for different causes by offering parking spots in private properties.

Sherryl Cook, employment specialist at the Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind, was one of them. She started at the parking lot around 9:30 a.m.

The Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind is a non-profit organization that offers rehabilitation programs for persons who are blind or visually impaired.

“It usually picks up around one when the parade is going on,” Cook said.

The idea started 16 years ago when one of her coworkers discovered a group of homeless charging people for using their office parking lot during Gasparilla. They decided it would be a good idea create a fundraiser to collect donations to support the organization.

They agreed to a price match with other nearby parking lots to make it fair. This year they charged 20 dollars for each spot.

There were 50 spots, and Cook said she planned to be there until 2 p.m.

Cooks’ plans for the rest of the day were going home and resting after a long morning at the parking lot.

Henry Sutter, 57, was another Tampa resident who decided to make some profit out of Gasparilla.

Holding a “Best Parking” sign, Sutter started at 9 a.m. working at the parking lot with his wife Patty Sutter, who works as a legal attorney at the Business Law Group, P.A., a community association law firm.

They have done this before for collecting money and donating it to the Boys Scouts or churches. This year they did it if for their own profit.

“This is year is going to my daughter’s college car fund,” Henry Sutter said.

They had 35 spots. They charged 30 dollars per car.

“Once every two or three years, I’m here,” Henry Sutter said. “We rotate turns with other people from the law firm.”

Hope for Thanksgiving.

On Nov. 28th I went to feed the homeless and met some amazing people. We started at Sacred Heart Catholic Church where we prepared the food. Then drove it over to St. Peter Claver Catholic School where we served it to hungry people. While preparing the food I met an amazing woman named Kim, who has been coming every Saturday since she got married and even after her stroke, she still lends a hand. Many people were so hungry they came through the line two or three times. They also received a doggie bag that helps them throughout the rest of the day. I went there to give back but in the end I was the one that received the most.

Special Olympics Form Passionate Friendships Personality

The Special Olympics is defined as “A non-profit organization that provides year-round sports training to children and adults, with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

Hillsborough County programs offer 17 sports to over 800 athletes, with the assistance of 75 coaches and over 1,000 volunteers throughout the year. These programs are free to athletes.

The Special Olympics also offers various programs such as Unified Sports, which joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team, and Healthy Athletes, which has become the largest global public health organization dedicated to serving people with intellectual disabilities.

However, for Special Olympics athletes and their families, the importance of the organization goes far beyond athletic training and offered programs.

“My favorite part about Special Olympics is playing different sports, make new friends, demonstrate courage, show friendship, and most importantly, to have fun,” athlete Thomas Shervington said.

Thomas plays basketball, soccer, golf, and softball, and just became a part of the Athletes Leadership Program, where he will help spread awareness on how to get involved with the Special Olympics.

“Him being in the Special Olympics has affected our lives so greatly,” Thomas’s mother, Buffie Shervington said. “He’s not only playing sports, but able to make new friends. My son got to thrive, grow, become confident and do all the things kids do.”

“He’s just a completely different person than he was before the Special Olympics. He’s my inspiration.”

Sigma Pi makes a ‘splash’ at Delta Gamma Event

Sigma Pi participated once again in Delta Gamma’s annual philanthropic Anchor Splash on Sunday, October 26, 2015. Sigma Pi did not place this year, but they seem to be optimistic toward future performances. Sigma Pi brother, Robert Steeg, said, “As long as we get more brothers to participate next year and we keep up the hard work, I believe we will improve and maybe even place.”

Running for the homeless: Trick or Trot 5k Costume Fun Run

Hope for the Homeless at USF organized their first Trick or Trot 5k Costume Fun Run on Oct. 24. The goals for the 5k were to have people have fun while running the trail and to raise as much money as possible. The money collected supports local homeless people with care packages for the holidays. The organization had a raffle drawing with prizes and a costume contest. Winners received prizes from local supporters.