Friends and Neighbors

Blood cancer survivors swim with the seals

Cancer survivor Hebe Occupati visits with a seal at the Miami Seaquarium.
Cancer survivor Hebe Occupati visits with a seal at the Miami Seaquarium.

Special to The Miami Herald

Four children and two young adults who are blood cancer survivors had the chance of a lifetime to interact with harbor seals at the Miami Seaquarium.

The young cancer survivors are an inspiration to all.

To beat their diseases they endured seemingly endless rounds of chemotherapy and painful treatments. At the Seal Swim they enjoyed an educational talk followed by interaction with the seals and plenty of hugs and kisses from their new friends in a training session.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) South Florida and Puerto Rico Chapter hosted the event in partnership with the Miami Seaquarium’s Seal Swim Program, a unique deep and shallow water experience with harbor seals.

Hebe Occupati, a survivor and one of the swimmers, was glad for the get together. She is also a campaign specialist for LLS.

"The Seal Swim was an unforgettable way for survivors to celebrate together that we beat cancer. We are grateful to the Miami Seaquarium for their support," Occupati said.

For more information on the Seal Swim, look under Animal Encounters at LLS has a mission "to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and to improve the quality of life of patients and their families."

The group funds lifesaving research around the world and provides free information and support services. LLS was founded in 1949 and has invested more than $875 million toward its cause. For more on getting involved locally, visit


The pregnant women and children who find safety at Lotus House Shelter in Overtown were treated to a much-needed party recently hosted by the Miami Alumnae Chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta. The group was also celebrating the 1850 birthday of Kappa Alpha Theta founder Bettie Locke.

"Throwing the baby shower for the pregnant women at Lotus House was a joy," said Karen Throckmorton, Kappa Alpha Theta member and 1976 graduate of Duke University.

"These young women are turning their lives around and are determined to be good mothers. The Miami chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta was proud to help these valiant women for our annual day of service," she said. "I loved meeting some of these future moms and a few of the beautiful children who currently live at Lotus House, which shelters almost forty children and 100 women."

The children were entertained with a magic show, face painting and games and the expectant moms were honored with the baby shower with traditional games and gifts.

Locke founded Kappa Alpha Theta in 1870 at Indiana’s DePauw University. It was the first Greek-letter fraternity for women. The group has active and alumnae members worldwide and the Miami Chapter is in its 73rd year of service to our community.

Alumna Marti Mang of Total Bank was recognized for her service to Lotus House, having been on the board for five years. Her many other contributions to the community include working with prisoners in Broward County, and students from Latvia studying at FIU.

President Gayle Bainbridge and Vice President Carolina McCain, who both worked hard at organizing the Lotus House event, lead the Miami Alumnae Chapter. For more visit and

Lotus House estimates "there are more than 1.4 million homeless children in the United States. Children ages 0 to 4 years old are at the greatest risk of homelessness." Single women head most homeless families.


Find beautiful gifts for the holidays at the yearly Ceramic Art Exhibition and Sale sponsored by the Rotary Club of Miami Dadeland Pinecrest from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Nov. 23 at 12101 SW 110th Ave.

Artist Ilajean Horwitz will feature her latest ceramic creations at the show and sale including amazing large ceramic flowers displayed in the garden, vessels filled with flowers, and her signature happy faces and jewelry.

The Ceramic Sale and donations help fund the Quest for Peace Juried Art Show at 6 p.m., Dec. 5., at the MDC/Kendall Campus Building M art gallery. The reception is open to the public and is free. The Rotary Club of Miami Dadeland Pinecrest and the Arts and Philosophy Department of MDC/Kendall host it.

The ninth annual event is in memory of Robert Horwitz, whose painting, Quest for Peace, will be on display in the gallery throughout the show, which runs from Dec. 5-18.

For more information about both events, call Ilajean Horwitz at 305-256-0745.


There is a new art therapy program to help Parkinson’s disease patients in our community. Classes are geared toward Young Onset PD sufferers and patients who are still employed during regular business hours.

Classes are held at the First United Methodist Church in Coral Gables located at 536 Coral Way, Room 223. The sessions are led by Dr. Amanda Pike, PhD, ATR. The new program is hosted by The ParkOptimists, National Parkinson Foundation South Florida.

There were 13 attendees at the first session and reactions were very positive said Silvia R. Moran, Support Group Coordinator of The ParkOptimists.

"Everyone participated and enjoyed it fully. This is a great success for this program and gives us great hopes for greater things to come. We will be holding our next session on Nov. 21," she said in email.

Moran said the program will be expanded as more participants join the group. To help with a donation you can mail a check to: NPF of South Florida-ParkOptimists, 1501 NW Ninth Ave., Miami, FL 33136 or call 305-243-2609. You can also visit

To find out more information about other young patients with PD, check out

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

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