Community Voices

Students' charity basketball tournament raises money for Achieve Miami

The students who organized the 10th annual Miracle Games 3 on 3 Charity Basketball Tournament are, from left: Sam Zimelman, Dylan Weingarden, Ben Lipson, Ross Ladis, Zachary Friedland and Blake Rubenstein.
The students who organized the 10th annual Miracle Games 3 on 3 Charity Basketball Tournament are, from left: Sam Zimelman, Dylan Weingarden, Ben Lipson, Ross Ladis, Zachary Friedland and Blake Rubenstein. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

On a recent rainy Saturday, almost 100 high school students gathered to play ball in the Temple Beth Am Gym.

They were there to raise money to help Achieve Miami, a place where, through the persistence of organizers, volunteer teachers, and high school mentors, low-income students can spend more time learning in classrooms.

The 10th annual Miracle Games 3 on 3 Charity Basketball Tournament was held May 19 under the guidance of student organizers Blake Rubenstein, Dylan Weingarden, Zachary Friedland, Ross Ladis, Ben Lipson and Sam Zimelman.

The growing and popular event also included the “3’s for Z” three-point contest started in 2011 to honor the memory of Palmetto High School graduate Zander Standiford.

“Zander touched the lives of many. We are grateful to be a part of this wonderful community event," said his mom, Kimberly Standiford, in an email.

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Kimberly Standiford and former NBA player Ron Perry presented the awards to this year's winners at the 10th annual Miracle Games 3 on 3 Charity Basketball Tournament. This year, the event raised funds for Achieve Miami, a group dedicated to achieving literacy for underprivileged elementary school students in Miami. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Miracle Games was founded in 2008 and organized by Jonathan Roth, Matthew Hellinger and Jayden Hardaway, when the three students recognized a need to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation. Miracle Games has raised more than $24,000 since then.

This year, the board of student organizers decided to raise money for a new cause — Achieve Miami.

"This year's fundraiser was a huge success and raised over $4,000 for Achieve Miami with nearly 100 players from local high schools, including Palmetto High, Coral Reef, Palmer Trinity, Riviera Preparatory, Coral Gables, Ransom Everglades and Gulliver Preparatory," said Weingarden, a recent graduate of Palmetto Senior High School, in an email.

Achieve Miami designs and manages programs with the mission to extend learning opportunities for students, teachers, and education leaders.

It began in 2015 and, according to the Achieve Miami website, now helps more than 1,500 students annually in four partner elementary sites “that engage students from over 40 high schools as mentors and volunteers.” Programs have extended learning time by 570 hours a school year. Educators can receive job embedded professional development, and high school students can contribute as mentors.

"At Achieve Miami, students build positive relationships with literacy through guidance, encouragement, and fun as Big Buddy Mentors," said Rubinstein, another recent graduate of Palmetto, in an email.

Student basketball players pay $10 each to be a part of the Miracle Games 3 on 3 Charity Basketball Tournament. For more about Achieve Miami, where you can donate funds or volunteer time, call 786-347-3499 or visit

Rotary hosts historian

Everyone is invited to attend the upcoming meeting of the Rotary Club of Miami Dadeland Pinecrest, when Florida historian Seth Bramson will present “The History of Discrimination in South Florida,” 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 26, at the Dadeland Marriott Hotel, 9090 S. Dadeland Blvd.

Bramson, a professor of history at Barry University, is the founder and current president of the Miami Memorabilia Collectors Club. His collection of Miami memorabilia and Florida artifacts is called the largest in private hands in the country. He is also author of 30 books on South Florida.

Members of this Rotary Club meet every month on the fourth Tuesday evening to discuss international and community service projects and to hear interesting speakers.

Learn more about all the good this group does in our community. Attend a meeting by contacting program chair Ron Lieberman, 305-613-6744,


The Rotary Club of Coral Gables has honored Wayne “Chip” Withers with the 2018 Coral Gables Martin Hughes Citizen of the Year Award. This is the 13th year the club has recognized a Coral Gables citizen who displays generosity and commitment to philanthropy and service.

Past honorees include David Lawrence Jr., Robert Fewell, Roxcy Bolton, Leona Cooper, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Steven Leifman, Pedro Greer, Bill Kerdyk Jr. and former Mayor Dorothy Thompson. Award recipients must have lived in the city of Coral Gables for five years and been involved in several different fields of community service for more than one year.

Withers is a fourth-generation resident. He is married to Cindy Snyder Withers and they have four children and eight grandchildren. He attended Sunset Elementary School, Ponce Junior High School, Coral Gables Senior High School and the University of Florida.

He is president of Withers Transfer & Storage of Coral Gables and he served the city in five terms as a commissioner, in addition to serving on numerous community boards.

He was honored as one of Ronald McDonald House's Twelve Good Men and is a member of the UF Foundation Board and the UF Gator Booster Organization.

The Rotary Club of Coral Gables meets every Thursday at 12:15 p.m. at the Coral Gables Hyatt Regency Hotel. If you are interested in attending a meeting or learning more, call 305-441-8063 or email

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