SOS Children’s Village celebrates 25 years

Posted on 10 November 2018 by LeslieM

By Rachel Galvin

For 25 years, SOS Children’s Village has been providing a home and hope to foster children. In that time, they have served over 700 children, with 183 of them being reunified with families and 44 placed in forever homes through adoption, according to Executive Director Jillian Smath.

On Nov. 1, they held a special event to mark their 25th anniversary at the Boca Raton Resort & Club. The luncheon brought out 275 people. Honorees included Marcy and Art Falcone; Jennifer and Marc Bell, members of the founding SOS Board of Directors; Arthur Adler, on behalf of the Boca West Children’s Foundation; Jay Dipietro, on behalf of the Club Managers Association of America; SOS employee Eryc Allen; SOS alumni Ernst Pierrelouis and Edith Stein, in memory of her husband Martin Stein.

About the event, Smath said, “This is really celebrating 25 years of serving children of Broward County. We wanted to look at how we got here and honor the people who have been instrumental in getting us here today and now we look forward to the next 25 years.”

She added that proceeds from the event will go toward SOS Children’s Village and said, “We have about a $4 million budget. Half is paid by the state. We have to raise the other half.”

The event was emceed by event chair Max Tucci, who said he has visited the Village and encouraged people to not only go to the events, but to visit the children, saying that the kids want people to say, “I hear you. I see you. You Matter.”

He co-chaired the event with Angela Fisher, who emotionally spoke to the audience, saying, “I have been involved seven years, Max invited me. I can’t describe the feeling I have when I step into the village.”

The sold-out event had Rolonda Watts as the guest speaker. She is an actress, standup comic and author. She told the story of being raised by parents who were foster children and said they were the most successful people she knows. She said SOS Children’s Village helps children to be successful, saying it takes a village and this is a village we can believe in.

The event also featured honorary chairs former Miami Heat player Mark Strickland and his wife Tomi Rose.

Jackie Lewis today is married and has a child. But, at one time, he was a foster child growing up at SOS Children’s Village. He addressed the crowd, talking about his experiences.

He said, “I came in 4th grade and was adopted when I was 16. My mother was an employee at SOS. What I was given was a blueprint not only for what love should look like, but what family should look like. Thanks to Next Steps (which helps kids who have aged out of Foster Care), I have had someone who has been side by side with me. What SOS does is it allows children to dream, which most foster kids never get to do. It is not a foster care facility. It is literally a home. I go back to visit. I don’t have to be ashamed [to be a foster child]. I have been given opportunities that most kids won’t have. I have been to sleep-away camp, football camp. I have met All Stars. It showed me that the sky’s the limit. It’s about the love you can give to another person. On behalf of the alumni, I would like to thank you. The money you give allows us to grow and be productive members of society. We don’t have to be a statistic.”

There were some generous bidders during the live auction. The event raised $170,000 overall.

Many who have given back to SOS were honored at the event and a music video by Xavier Lewis was shown. Guests enjoyed a delicious lunch and received a swag bag when they left.

SOS Children’s Village in Florida is part of a worldwide network of more than 500 international villages caring for foster children with the aim to keep siblings together and to ultimately reunify families if possible while creating a home for them in the meantime. The local village is in Coconut Creek and includes 13 family-style homes around a cul-de-sac, each staffed by a full-time live-in houseparent with SOS providing an array of support services and enrichment opportunities to help the children grow into productive adults.

To find out more about SOS Children’s Village, visit www.sosflorida.com.

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