Basketball makes everything brighter for Dibriva Bouquet. When he’s watching games, he can escape from his everyday struggles and drop into a circumscribed world infused with movement, noise and color where there’s always a winner — and plenty of dunks.
“I like the Heat a lot because they have won three NBA championships,” Bouquet said of his favorite team. “They are good at dunking.”
Bouquet has had to make a difficult transition out of foster care, separating from the foster mother he adored. It was the third time he was wrenched from his home. Years before, at age 11, he had moved from Haiti to Miami. Then his biological mother lost custody of him when she tried to commit suicide and could no longer care for him.
But Bouquet, who has an intellectual disability, has since found a stable, loving home with his aunt, Wilta Mardius, a nurse who treats her 26-year-old nephew like a son.
“I’m happier now,” he said.
Mardius said Bouquet has added new purpose to her life.
“I teach him how to cook, wash dishes, clean the bathroom and take care of himself,” she said. “I believe God will make him a special man. I feel blessed by opening my heart to help him. My dream for him is that he can learn to read and have a good job.”
Bouquet, who goes by the nickname of Keli, works at Goodwill of South Florida’s Work Activities Center in Allapattah measuring and packaging spices and cooking ingredients. The job allows him to gain work and social skills. Bouquet, who used to work on the cleaning crew at Hard Rock Stadium, would like to get a job at Walmart or as a computer repairman. Bouquet is the core of Goodwill’s mission — “job creation, job preparedness and maximizing personal independence.”
“The entire routine of getting up, getting dressed, being somewhere on time, being productive and working with others gives people an opportunity to develop their skills and find a more challenging job,” said Lourdes de la Mata-Little, vice president of marketing and development for Goodwill South Florida, which nominated Bouquet for the Miami Herald’s Wish Book. “Our goal is upward mobility. We believe everyone has a story.”
Bouquet takes great pride in his work, said his human services counselor, Steve Kuster.
“Keli likes to work hard,” Kuster said. “Sometimes the tasks will change abruptly and he has to be attentive, follow instructions, ask questions and take criticism. Social interaction is crucial because different behaviors come into conflict and they have to work it out. Keli has learned a lot from his colleagues, too.”
Bouquet was incommunicative and dejected when he started at Goodwill, but Kuster found a way to connect with him through their mutual love of sports. Bouquet joined the Special Olympics team that Kuster coaches and soon excelled at bowling, soccer and basketball. He’s ready to try track and field.
“Sports had a therapeutic effect — that’s how I could engage him,” Kuster said. “He can be withdrawn, but sports gives him comfort and brings him out of his shell. He’s got a two-handed bowling style and a nice bank shot.”
At home, Bouquet likes to sing Creole gospel songs; he’s a member of the Fraternity Baptist Church and says, “I want to go to heaven. Not hell.” He likes to make chicken and rice. But what he really likes is watching sports on TV. College and pro football and soccer — especially Brazil’s national team — are always among his viewing priorities.
“The Dolphins are not that good, but I still like them,” said Bouquet, sounding like a true Miami Dolphins masochist.
He is an avid fan of the NBA. He cracks a wry smile — kind of like a Shaquille O’Neal smile — when he talks about the league.
Nothing would make him happier than tickets to a Miami Heat game. He’s never been before. And he’d relish a chance to meet the team’s players, or wear some Heat (or Golden State Warriors) gear and new sneakers. Practice with a new basketball.
“It’s a good sport and I like it a lot,” he said. “It’s sad when the Heat loses. It’s exciting when they win. I like Dwyane Wade and LeBron [James]. They went to Cleveland but I forgive them. I like Goran [Dragic]. I like Hassan [Whiteside].
“Golden State is my second favorite team. I like Steph Curry. I like the passing. I like the three-pointers.”
Bouquet becomes animated when he offers his opinion on that never-ending debate about the best NBA player ever.
“Michael Jordan is better than LeBron,” he said. “His shoes are better, too.”
How to help: Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year. To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook. For information, call 305-376-2906 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. (Most requested items: laptops and tablets for school, furniture, accessible vans.) Read more at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook
How to Help
Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year. To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook. For information, call 305-376-2906 or email email@example.com. (Most requested items: laptops and tablets for school, furniture, accessible vans.) Read more at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook