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Companies help kids in need get back to school

John Lopez shops for his new school clothes at Old Navy. The Voices For Children Foundation made sure 420 children in Miami-Dade’s foster care system are ready to go back to school.
John Lopez shops for his new school clothes at Old Navy. The Voices For Children Foundation made sure 420 children in Miami-Dade’s foster care system are ready to go back to school.

Special to The Miami Herald

The school year is about to begin and for a kid that means having cool shoes, a good backpack with supplies, and new uniforms. But getting all that is not always easy. The Voices For Children Foundation recently made sure that 420 children in the Miami-Dade County foster care system have what they need for a good start.

The Miami non-profit group hosted its third annual back to school event to help foster children between ages four and 18 years old who are in the dependency program and are represented by the Miami-Dade Circuit Court’s Guardian ad Litem Program.

Each student received $200 to choose and purchase their uniforms and shoes at partners Old Navy at the Shoppes at Dadeland and Sports Authority at Dadeland Station. And every child received a backpack with school supplies courtesy of the Office Depot Foundation.

“This year’s Back To School event was a tremendous success, providing more children with more,” said Gail Appelrouth, chair of Voices For Children Foundation, after the event. “If it were not for Voices For Children Foundation, many of these children would go back to school with old or borrowed clothes. And to have new shoes, especially Nikes, was an amazing addition this year. We hope to serve more foster children every year as we believe we are helping them grow by selecting their own clothes and shoes for school. Tonight all the children and youth who attended our event felt empowered and ready to start a new school year; this is a great contribution we are making to support their education.”

The event’s success also was due to generous donations from the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation and the MoneyGram Foundation.

After purchasing their new uniforms, the children and families had snacks provided by Elevation Burger and Lime Fresh Mexican Grill. Staff members of Old Navy even chipped in to purchase dessert cupcakes and drinks for the children to enjoy at the end of the event.

“I have never had two new pairs of shoes in my life,” said Jerry, a 6-year-old foster child through an event release.

Juan Agualimpia, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of MoneyGram International, said the MoneyGram Foundation believes education is the ultimate tool to transform lives.

“We are honored to be part of the Voices For Children Foundation’s Back to School night, providing underprivileged children from the Miami-Dade area with school uniforms and shoes,” Agualimpia said in a release. “The MoneyGram Foundation focuses solely on helping children around the world gain better access to educational facilities and learning resources. As part of the MoneyGram Foundation’s inaugural grant cycle, we are excited to provide this grant to Voices For Children, a highly-respected organization that improves children’s lives both in and out of the classroom.”

There are more than 3,000 children are in Miami-Dade County’s Foster Care system with 1,184 children unrepresented by Guardians ad Litem. For more on how you can get involved to make a difference in a child’s life visit


With the theme “Building a Better Future,” the American Nicaraguan Foundation will celebrate its 20th anniversary Oct. 26 at an elegant annual gala. Last year the event raised over $700,000 to fight poverty in the most needy sections of Nicaragua. Event chairs Gala Founders F. Alfredo Pellas Jr. and Theresa Pellas have set a goal to surpass $1 million for the cause this year.

The event will be held at the InterContinental Hotel in Downtown Miami and more than 500 guests are expected. This year’s honorees are F. Alfredo Pellas Chamorro Sr., Carmen Ch. de Pellas and Food For The Poor Inc.

Theresa Pellas and Gabriela Terán work hard to make the event beautiful and inspiring for the philanthropic community in South Florida.

“We like to include many surprise elements so we can keep our guests on their toes,” said Theresa Pellas, vice president of the ANF. “Last year there were mini confetti explosions from the tables and a video presentation that didn’t leave a dry eye in the room.”

The annual event is vital to the mission of the foundation. Through ticket sales and silent and live auctions, the ANF “has brought more than 5,400 ocean containers of aid, valued at more than $1.5 billion, to support the work of over 1,600 local organizations in the last 20 years.”

The gala helps fund programs to provide clean water and healthcare, home construction, and education for children. For event information and to donate to ANF visit

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at

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