Community Voices

Miami Cancer Institute raises $12,000 at ‘Last Jedi’ benefit screening

Raising funds for Miami Cancer Institute at a private premiere screening of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” are, from left, Brandi Syatauw Heddings, Baptist Health South Florida director of development; Brad Barreto, Coral Gables Title + Escrow chief financial officer; Richard Barbara, Coral Gables Title + Escrow chief operations officer; Jamie Thomas, Baptist Health South Florida assistant vice president; and Annie Martinez-Lopez, Baptist Health South Florida assistant vice president.
Raising funds for Miami Cancer Institute at a private premiere screening of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” are, from left, Brandi Syatauw Heddings, Baptist Health South Florida director of development; Brad Barreto, Coral Gables Title + Escrow chief financial officer; Richard Barbara, Coral Gables Title + Escrow chief operations officer; Jamie Thomas, Baptist Health South Florida assistant vice president; and Annie Martinez-Lopez, Baptist Health South Florida assistant vice president. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Raffle and ticket sales raised $12,000 to benefit Miami Cancer Institute at a private premiere screening of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” sponsored by Baptist Health Foundation and Coral Gables Title + Escrow.

About 400 “Star Wars” fans attended the much-anticipated eighth installment of the famed series at South Miami’s AMC Sunset Place 24 Theater on Dec. 15.

“We are so blessed to have Miami Cancer Institute and world class cancer care right here in Miami,” said Richard Barbara, Coral Gables Title + Escrow chief operations officer in a release. “The Star Wars event is just a fun way to bring the community together for a great time and a great cause. Our event has become something of a tradition and we look forward to hosting it for as long as Disney is making Star Wars movies.”

Miami Cancer Institute has one of North America’s most comprehensive and advanced radiation oncology programs. It is one of only three members of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Center Alliance that provides patients access to groundbreaking clinical trials.

It also houses South Florida’s first proton therapy center, which uses the most advanced form of pencil beam scanning (PBS) technology to target cancer cells while sparing healthy tissue. Children’s cancers and adult cancers of the brain, liver, lung and prostate are some of the conditions that can be treated with proton therapy.

“On behalf of Baptist Health and Miami Cancer Institute, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to Mr. Barbara and his team at Coral Gables Title + Escrow for their generosity and commitment to the cause,” said William H. Banchs, Baptist Health South Florida Foundation chief executive officer in a release.

Teen wins grant to help families

Congratulations to Ransom Everglades senior Sophia Elliott, 17, who recently won a $500 Disney “Be Inspired” grant to install a smoothie bar and garden at the new Lotus Village Women’s Shelter in Overtown.

Sophia will bring a small refrigerator and ingredients to create the do-it-yourself healthy snack center and she will involve the shelter’s volunteers and women residents.

“We will also plant seeds and young fruit trees to add to the garden in the new facility at 217 NW 15th St.,” Sophia said in an email. “I plan to do the project in January with friends, family and other students from Ransom, including the members of FOR THE WIN (Women in Need), a group I co-founded.”

The recent grant is just part of the money Sophia has raised to support Lotus House over the years. She also makes donation money through her baking business, painting, charity runs and tutoring.

“I have helped raised over $6,000 just in the last couple of years for charities including Lotus House, Children’s Bereavement Center, and Inner City Dance Club,” Sophia said.

“I have always loved to make my own smoothies and snacks when I get home from school. But I realized after spending time at Lotus House over the years that it’s not always easy for the residents to eat well when they don’t have access to fresh ingredients,” she said.

Sophia said she has been giving cooking workshops at Lotus House using tropical fruits from her home’s trees on Miami Beach.

“When I was younger, my sister and I had bake sales nearly every weekend. My mom donated the money or used it to buy supplies for Lotus House. When she brought my sister and me there to help serve meals or sort Christmas presents, it really opened my eyes to how much I have to be grateful for: simple things, like a full refrigerator and a computer to look up recipes.”

“It is not just about showing up with stuff. I really enjoy going to the house and teaching classes in fruit dehydrating, gardening, painting, and cake decorating. The kids and their moms really have fun trying new things, and I love sharing,” she said.

While Sophia hopes to study to become a surgeon, she also wants to combine her skills in fundraising, baking, art and gardening to raise awareness about the difficulties women and their children face when in financial distress. You can see photos of her cakes, art and community service projects at www.instagram.com/baketheworldbetter.

A gift of game

The students at Dr. Henry Mack/West Little River K-8 Center in Miami are enjoying a refurbished basketball court thanks to a donation from Wade’s World Foundation, the charitable organization of three-time NBA champion Dwyane Wade and Sandals Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the Caribbean resort chain.

At the fun-filled ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony Dec. 19, the students tried out the new court and played basketball alongside Dwyane Wade Sr., father of the former Miami Heat player.

About 40 students and faculty attended the ceremony with Region Superintendent for Miami-Dade County Public Schools John Pace; school Principal Kimula D. Oce; Heidi Clarke, executive director of Sandals Foundation; and Tragil Wade, executive director of Wade’s World Foundation.

“This court means so much to our foundation and Mr. Wade, particularly as we will always think of Miami as our home — it’s where my nephews still live and go to school and where my father lives,” said Tragil Wade, the basketball star’s sister, at the ceremony. “We are so proud to be here today opening this beautiful court which is a way for those who don’t have much to give thanks and to be reminded never to give up. Let this be an inspiration to each of you to do your best and always say ‘I Believe In Myself.’”

You can learn more at www.wadesworldfoundation.org and https://sandalsfoundation.org.

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at christinammayo@gmail.com.

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