Miami-Dade County

The EDGE Charitable Foundation hosts gala to collect funds to help underprivileged kids

Mercy Hernandez, left, founder of the EDGE Charitable Foundation, with Jennifer Brown, Mio Serrano, Clare Willis and Lourdes Lopez.
Mercy Hernandez, left, founder of the EDGE Charitable Foundation, with Jennifer Brown, Mio Serrano, Clare Willis and Lourdes Lopez.

When Mercy Hernandez founded the EDGE Charitable Foundation in 2007, her main objective was to show her three daughters a life lesson: giving without expecting anything in return.

Her project then grew into a nonprofit organization that not only impacted her children, but a part of Miami’s youth, especially those with special needs.

On the evening of Oct. 17, the EDGE Foundation hosted its eighth annual Tropical Miami Night Gala, at the Hilton Miami Airport Hotel with the objective to raise funds that will benefit kids who are homeless and victims of violence.

“We really started this entire idea for me to be able to tell my own children what other children are going through around the world,” said Hernandez, 49. “Originally the idea came from trying to teach my children, my 3 girls, to stay away from that entitlement feeling that I felt that their generation was facing.”

The EDGE, which stands for, “the early development of global education,” is dedicated to serving families and children who are orphans, homeless, victims of domestic violence and human trafficking.

Since 2007, the EDGE has helped more than 20,000 children in the United States, Haiti, Jamaica, Guatemala, India, Madagascar, Kenya, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico.

After shifting its vision in 2014 from teaching environmental education to solely helping kids, the EDGE gathered three main ideas as the pillars to help members reach their objective: forming the Youth Advisory Committee, distributing The Purple Bag Project and hosting an annual toy drive.

The main pillar is the Youth Advisory Committee (also known as the YAC), a group of 13- to 17-year-olds who shadow the EDGE, and help plan different activities and projects that they feel would improve the alternatives of helping at-risk-kids at a national and international level.

From these activities came the Purple Bag Project, an idea of giving a rescued child a bag full of items that will comfort them during a time of vulnerability. A stuffed animal, a blanket, a coloring book, a reading book, baby wipes, a comb, crayons, a toothbrush and a love note are all included in the purple backpack that is meant to console a child.

The bags are initially given to police officers, critical care nurses, school counselors and special victims units, so whenever they’re encountered with a victim, they give the bag to the child as a form of comfort and to open a line of communication between the child and the first responder.

The city of Miami Beach was among the first supporters of the Purple Bag Project, by taking 20 bags and distributing them to victims rescued from a violent or dangerous scene.

“Sometimes we’re so focused on domestic violence being the wife who’s battered, but really the children are being affected, so everytime my officers respond to a scene, they’re looking at the child, [and] the child is nervous,” said William Hernandez, 52, Mercy’s husband and interim chief at the North Miami Beach Police Department. “So we try to give the child some comfort. We’re trying to lessen the impact.”

The Youth Advisory Committee is in charge of helping fill the bags by gathering the necessary items through toys as well as donations.

Being part of the YAC also includes attending meetings, learning a series of proper mannerisms and leadership skills such as responsibility, making eye contact, punctuality and dress-code within others.

“We teach them what a strategic plan is, how we make a plan, how we follow through with it, why we make a plan, what to get out of the plan,” Mercy Hernandez said. “We try to touch on things that we know the school doesn’t.”

Lauren Hernandez, 17, says she has been doing toy drives since she can remember.

Lauren says her mother, Mercy, is her biggest inspiration in continuing to work on giving back to the community.

“It’s come so far, from doing it in our garage [and] in our living room to now being able to have our own office and warehouse. We’ve gone so far with it and to be able to have the funds to start a youth group is amazing,” said Lauren, who is also the vice-president of the youth committee.

The YAC had their own table set up with demonstrations of the purple bags and information on the toy drive at the Tropical Miami Night Gala on Saturday evening. The soiree also included various activities for attendees such as a silent auction of jewelry and photography, a buffet with small bites, a photo booth, tables for playing dominoes, cocktails, a coffee station, a cigar rolling table, a DJ and live salsa dancers.

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