Friends and Neighbors

Young volunteer wins scholarship for work with veterans


Special to the Miami Herald

S hannon Mathew, 17, is the first-place winner and recipient of the James H. Parke Memorial Fund Youth Scholarship of $20,000 for her volunteer work with the Miami VA Healthcare System.

She was selected from a national pool of youth volunteers who choose to help veterans at their local veterans affairs hospitals.

“To be recognized as the top youth volunteer in the entire country is a reflection of her devotion and we are lucky that she volunteered with us,” said Paul Russo, director of the Miami VA Healthcare System in a news release.

Shannon, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is the second Miami youth volunteer to win the award through the Department of Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service and the Miami VA Healthcare System. Eileana Hernandez received the award in 2011.

Students from Miami-Dade and Broward counties who get involved in the summer volunteer program are able to work alongside doctors, nurses and VA staff to care for veterans.

“I love it. I love it even more each year,” Shannon said. “Helping the patients, hearing the veteran’s stories, are a true blessing in my life.” Shannon has been accepted to the University of Florida.


The Florida International University Relay For Life event celebrated “10 Years of Hope” by surpassing its fundraising goal to raise over $115,000 with 103 teams.

The recent overnight event at Ryder Business Loop at FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique Campus drew more than 4,000 people to raise money for cancer research and patient support.

FIU Relay For Life teamed up with the American Cancer Society for one of the university’s largest student fundraisers. Students, faculty and staff were involved and the event began with a Cancer Survivors Lap celebrating those who have survived or who are currently battling cancer.

Also included was a hair-cutting ceremony in partnership with Pantene Beautiful Lengths that allowed over 200 girls to donate eight inches of hair or more to become free, real-hair wigs for women battling hair loss as a result of treatment.

“It can happen to any of us. One in two people will have cancer,” said Jennifer Cordero, a senior and director of FIU Relay For Life. Cordero is also a cancer survivor who was diagnosed with thymoma, a rare cancer of the thymus gland, when she was 13 years old. She is still undergoing treatment.

“As a survivor, I don’t want the person next to me to have cancer. Relay For Life gives me hope and the strength to keep on fighting. Hopefully one day I’m on the other side,” she said in a release.

Since its inception in 2004, FIU Relay For Life has donated $815,000 to the American Cancer Society.


Congratulations to Young Patronesses of the Opera (YPO) for its presentations of The Pied Piper of Hamelin, by Seymour Barab, that will have been performed for 30,000 students in our community by the end of its run in early April.

This is the 39th season of the group’s program that reaches out to schoolchildren in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The 2014 tour began in January.

The 30-minute production includes full sets, costumes, and live music. Each student also receives a workbook created by the organization’s education committee members with poems, music, games and puzzles about the opera story.

“In-School Opera program has always held true to the YPO mission to educate and cultivate the love of opera to the youth in the community,” said Julie Todaro. Since its inception in 1975, under the leadership of Todaro’s mother Louise P. Todaro, it is estimated that more than 500,000 South Florida children in public and private schools have seen the professional performances for free.

YPO members receive hundreds of thank you letters from teachers, principals, and children each year. One teacher wrote, “Thank you for bringing the opera to our school. This opportunity for students is unmatched and we appreciate all you, your staff and cast do to make it possible.”

For over 50 years, the organization’s volunteer women have made it a mission to bring a love of opera to our community. For more information about YPO visit


Trial lawyer Stuart Z. Grossman of Grossman Roth, P.A. has been honored with the 2014 Compassionate Gladiator Award presented by the Florida Justice Association.

Each year the award is given to an individual “who exemplifies strength, skill, drive and heart and who can be described as an unwavering advocate, a master of the trial and a champion for victims.”

“I am honored to be the recipient of this prestigious award, as well as to have had the opportunity to speak to such a dedicated group of professionals,” Grossman said in a release. His career is distinguished by an unprecedented number of favorable verdicts concentrating on medical malpractice, products liability, and personal injury litigation.

Grossman has won some of the largest honors in Florida including Trial Lawyer of the Year by the American Board of Trial Advocates of Florida. He was the recipient of the Academy of Trial Lawyer’s Crystal Eagle Award and inducted into the Academy’s Hall of Fame.

When not in the courtroom, Grossman is an author and lecturer. He is also active with Margaux’s Miracle Foundation at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, United Cerebral Palsy and United Way.


Members of the New Neighbors Club of South Dade will install newly-elected officers at the next luncheon meeting starting at 11:30 a.m., April 9 at Killian Palms Country Club, 9950 SW 104th St. Socializing starts at 11 a.m. Everyone is invited to attend the special ceremony led by Andrea Rogers.

The newly elected officers are: Sharalynn Torres, president; Thelma Tucker, 1st vice president programs; Christine Wagner, 2nd VP membership; Judy Spratt, treasurer; and Elaine DeLeonardis, recording secretary. Torres will also handle correspondence/newsletter.

Alexander Savoy will entertain the group with a “World Color Guard Musical Performance.” Savoy was a member of an award-winning color guard troop and currently teaches the art of color guard to high school students.

To attend, contact at or call 305-595-0213. The deadline for reservations is Thursday by 6 p.m. Cost of the luncheon is $26. New Neighbors Club of South Dade’s mission is to create community awareness and support while enjoying good times. For more, visit

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

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