Kids in plastic firefighter helmets ran through obstacle courses as belly dancers, singers and even a water-skiing squirrel entertained crowds on a hot day at this year’s Philanthrofest event in downtown Miami.
The event, in its fourth year, was held for the first time at Museum Park, 1075 Biscayne Blvd., and featured hundreds of volunteers from various service organizations, community groups, nonprofits and businesses — all there to share information on their services and to educate the community about available programs.
Estrellita Sibila, the event’s executive director and co-founder, said that she was excited to move the event to the 30-acre park after hosting it at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson campus in previous years.
“It’s a new public space and a lot of people weren’t familiar with it,” Sibila said. “We thought it was a fabulous new venue and a chance to take advantage of activating the park.”
Some new additions for this year’s fest including a “giving circle,” where children played carnival games in a small circle in the middle of the park for a chance to win coins that they could donate to charities.
The park was set up with various “walk” stations, grouping similar organizations together. Lina Aguirre, a human resources coordinator with Miami Bridge, one of the groups in the “wellness walk” area, said that she attended mostly to get the word out about her organization, which provides counseling and support services to teenagers.
Aguirre said the networking opportunities at Philanthrofest were an added bonus.
“We can share the information about what we do and see if we can help other people and other similar organizations,” Aguirre said.
Another group, Amigos for Kids, works with parents and children to prevent child abuse and gives 10-week instructional courses in schools on how to improve domestic relationships.
Cecilia Moscoso, care coordinator for the organization, said that the group started out small, but it has grown and now operates in Little Havana, Homestead and Hialeah.
“It started as a group of friends coming together to do a toy drive, and eventually they saw there was a need to develop child abuse prevention programs,” Moscoso said.
Representatives from other groups, like David Doebler, who started VolunteerCleanup.org as a way to help people host and find local cleanups of neighborhoods across Miami, said that they’ve been supporting the event from the beginning and hope it continues to grow.
“I started coming to Philanthrofest when it first started just to check it out, and after that, I said I had to be here one day,” Doebler said.
The event also placed emphasis on science and technology with the “Science Treehouse,” featuring volunteers and science communications fellows from the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science.
Fest goers were able to grow their own plants in a cup, see birds of prey and watch electrical circuits power fans and light bulbs, all while viewing the construction of the new museum site next door.
“Being so close to our new museum, it was a great way to educate people about what we’re planning for the future, and it’s an event we love to participate in,” said Joseph Quiñones, the museum’s marketing manager.
Sibila said that she hopes to continue having the event at Museum Park, and for it to showcase more organizations and more causes.
“We’re really excited about this venue; it’s much bigger than we’ve worked with before,” Sibila said. “We’ll have to see the type of feedback that we get from our partners to see if they do love this space more than other locations we’ve worked at and see how well it works for the format.”
To learn more about Philanthrofest, including information on the various organizations, visit Philanthrofest.com