Community Voices

Friends and Neighbors: Students join forces to collect equipment for young Dominican athletes

Patriots Outreach Board Members include, from left, Alex Hartnett, T.J North, Chairman Blake Miller, Ryan Booth and Keaton Zargham. More than 5,000 pieces of sports equipment were collected in the latest drive to help young athletes in Dominican Republic.
Patriots Outreach Board Members include, from left, Alex Hartnett, T.J North, Chairman Blake Miller, Ryan Booth and Keaton Zargham. More than 5,000 pieces of sports equipment were collected in the latest drive to help young athletes in Dominican Republic.

For Blake Miller, a junior at Palmer Trinity School, the annual Patriot Outreach sports equipment collection drive brings together friends and competitors in a common cause: to help deserving young athletes in the Dominican Republic have a chance to play.

For the past three years, Blake has been chairman of the volunteer group that collects used, and still useable, athletic equipment and clothing. The items are sorted, boxed and shipped for distribution to impoverished children in the Higüey and Punta Cana areas.

This year, the Patriot Outreach board is comprised of students from many area high schools. Joining Blake in the mission are board members Keaton Zargham and Ryan Booth from Palmetto High School; Alex Hartnett of Coral Reef High School; and T.J. North from Westminster Christian School.

Blake said he is particularly proud of the board members for their devotion to Patriot Outreach this year.

“We have played baseball together, and against each other, for the past 12 years,” he said. “This group of old friends pooled resources and organized the community-wide effort to collect more than 5,000 sports items this year.”

He said the recycled equipment and clothing give the Dominican Republic youngsters an opportunity to participate in athletics, much the same as boys and girls do here in South Florida.

Patriot Outreach members have held the annual drive for eight consecutive years and have collected more than 60,000 pieces of sports equipment, uniforms, shoes, and related gear.

The next drive will begin in February 2015. For more information, contact


The Rotary Club of Miami Dadeland Pinecrest and the Arts and Philosophy Department of MDC/Kendall invite the public to the opening reception of the Quest for Peace Juried Art Show at 6 p.m., Dec. 4, in the gallery on the MDC/Kendall Campus Building M.

This annual event is in memory of Robert Horwitz, whose painting “Quest for Peace” will be on display in the gallery throughout the show Dec. 4-18.

The exhibition is funded by the sale of ceramic pieces created by Ilajean Horwitz and other donations. You can find her beautiful garden ceramic flowers, her signature happy faces, small flowers and functional items for sale at her show 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Dec. 6 at 12101 SW 110 Ave. Robert Horwitz's sculpture will also be on display.

Some of the items for sale can be viewed at and on Facebook. Write for more on the art show reception and her ceramic sale. For a campus map visit


Start your holidays happy by attending free concerts at the Merrick Festival's 28th Annual Caroling Competition Dec. 3-7. Evening performances are from 7 to 10 p.m. and the Sunday performances are from 3 to 6 p.m. This is the 28th year for the competition hosted by the 550 Biltmore Way Building in Coral Gables.

Different schools will perform every half hour. The concerts are held on the steps of the 550 Building and this year the competition welcomes 30 public, private and parochial schools. Cash prizes of over $25,000 will be awarded in the Junior and Senior Divisions for small ensembles, full choirs and show choirs.

Musically accomplished volunteer judges take time out from their busy holiday schedules for the competition. They are Tony Arroyo, Yvonne Barclay, Judie Berger, Rafael de Guzman, Coreen Duffy, Anna Hersey, Giselle Elgarresta Rios, Kevin Rutledge, Adele de los Santos, Carolyn Stanford, Charles Vitale, Teresita Wessels and Candace Wicke.

The winning groups will return to the location for a short program to accept their awards at 7 p.m., Dec. 9. For more visit


Kick off your season of giving with a donation at the annual community toy drive scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m., Dec. 4 at the Coral Gables Museum, 285 Aragon Ave. Participating partners include emergency responders with Coral Gables Fire Rescue and Police and area restaurants.

Organizers are encouraging the public to bring a new, unwrapped toy to the Museum and then enjoy the complimentary food courtesy of Seasons 52, Red Koi Thai & Sushi Lounge, The Westin Colonnade, and Pardos Chicken. Holiday beverages also will be available. The museum will have its tree lighting ceremony at 6 p.m.


Everyone in the community is invited to experience the sights and sounds of Christmas at two free concerts hosted by Old Cutler Presbyterian Church. The 38th annual event will be at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Dec. 6 at 14401 Old Cutler Rd.

The earlier show will include the children’s choir and a full orchestra will perform at the later show. The concert will be directed by two graduates from the University of Miami’s music program and recently retired UM professor Dr. Dennis Kam.

UM graduates Shawn Sutta and Jamie Sutta, who are on staff at Old Cutler Church, will lead the worship band and choir with soulful jazz and powerful vocal pieces. Performances will include selections from the Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas, O Holy Night and other Christmas favorites.

“We’re hoping this concert brings families together, both young and old,” Shawn Sutta said. “We are excited for this opportunity to get some of the city’s greatest musicians together and celebrate a day that is truly special. ”

For more call 305-238-8121 or visit


Guest artist Mindy McGee will entertain at the next New Neighbors Club of South Dade luncheon. This group and its regular events are open to all residents of Miami-Dade County. McGee’s extensive repertoire has delighted audiences in the Catskills of New York, Atlantic City, the Pocono Mountain resorts and South Florida.

The luncheon reception starts at 11 a.m., Dec. 10, at the Killian Palms Country Club 9950 SW 104th St. Cost is $26 per person and reservations are required by 6 p.m. Dec. 4. Write to or call 305-595-0213.

New Neighbors Club of South Dade is a friendly organization for new residents, longtime residents, and those who are undergoing lifestyle changes such as empty nesters or recent retirees. Check out to find out more about monthly activities.

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