Community Voices

Friends and Neighbors: Hundreds of youths, volunteers participate in Sports Ability Games

Sports Ability Sailing with Shake-A-Leg Miami in Coconut Grove on Dec. 4.
Sports Ability Sailing with Shake-A-Leg Miami in Coconut Grove on Dec. 4.

The 32nd annual Sports Ability Games hosted by the Junior Orange Bowl joined the talents of 350 youth from South Florida and 100 volunteers at a three-day series of events for physically challenged children.

The games allow each participant to compete at his or her own developmental stage, while they meet and interact with others who may share similar challenges.

Included are sailing at Shake-A-Leg Miami, swimming at Ransom Everglades School, and track & field at Tropical Park. The Sports Ability Games is one of over 15 athletic and academic events included each year during the annual Junior Orange Bowl Festival.

“Our games are developmental in nature so participants can take on new challenges in a nonthreatening environment with the appropriate encouragement and support,” said Richard Naue, chairman of the event, in a news release. “It also provides our volunteer community with the opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life even for just one day.”

The events are designed for children with a wide range of physical disabilities including amputation, blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy, spinal lesions, dwarfism and Les Autres, the French term used to “describe athletes with a range of conditions which result in locomotive disorders that don’t fit into the traditional classification systems of the established disability groups.”

The athletes’ accomplishments were celebrated at an awards ceremony, a dinner and a dance party all hosted by Melreese Country Club.

Community and corporate partners who supported the Junior Orange Bowl Festival and the Sports Ability Games included the Woody Foundation, an organization dedicated to raising funds for the recovery of people with spinal cord injuries.

Other event partners were Badia Spices, KIND Healthy Snacks, Coffey Burlington law firm, Whole Foods Market, Walgreens, California Pizza Kitchen, Shorty’s Barbecue, and the University of Miami Department of Physical Therapy.

For more about, and to get involved with, the Junior Orange Bowl call 305-662-1210 or visit


Now, this is a fun way to start 2015. Kids, ages 5-12, can create their own dance party extravaganza at the Gallery Night Kids Club from 6-9 p.m., Jan. 2, hosted by the Coral Gables Museum, 285 Aragon Ave.

The children will create a disco ball, enjoy glow-in-the-dark crafts and games, and celebrate during the glow-in-the-dark dance party.

This exciting event was started in 2013 as a fun and educational way for kids to enjoy their own art activities while parents participate in and enjoy the monthly Gallery Night in downtown Coral Gables. Gallery Night is the first Friday night of each month.

Registration is required for the kids’ event. Call 305-603-8067 or send e-mail to The cost is $30 per child and $25 for Museum Family Members. For $10, parents can choose from a selection of yummy and healthy meals for the children, provided by Seasons 52. For more check out


Congratulations to all the talented young photographers who participated in the 2014 ZoolensSM Photography Project hosted by Mercantil Commercebank. The awards ceremony was held recently at the bank’s Coral Gables headquarters with Zoo Miami’s Director of Communications and Nikon® Ambassador Ron Magill serving as emcee.

And the winners are:

First place went to Alexandra Geltner from South Miami K-8 Center. Alexandra won for her work, “Photobomb.” She received a $2,000 Mercantil Commercebank savings account, a professional camera and a Student Membership to the North American Nature Photography Association.

Second place went to Rafaella Cevallos from Doral Academy. Rafaella was awarded for her entry titled, “Don’t Ruffle My Feathers.” She received a $1,500 savings account, a professional camera and a Student Membership to the North American Nature Photography Association.

Third place went to Sofia Arias from Somerset Academy Dade. Sofia won with her photo, “Sweet Dreams.” She received a $1,000 savings account, a professional camera and a Student Membership to the North American Nature Photography Association.

The winners’ schools will also receive a donation from the bank. The 10 honorable mention winners, revealed at the ceremony, each won a $100 Visa Gift Card. The top 13 student winners received honorary medals from the Miami-Dade County School Board.

There were 30 middle school student finalists in all and the remaining finalists were awarded iTunes gift cards, courtesy of Mercantil Commercebank, in appreciation of their participation. Winning photographs were on display during the ceremony.

The Mercantil Commercebank’s ZoolensSM Photography Project was developed in partnership with Zoo Miami and the Zoological Society of Florida to foster awareness of wildlife among Miami-Dade County middle school students. Through the contest, students are encouraged to creatively photograph their favorite Zoo Miami animal. They then submit their best photo for a chance to win.

The 2014 project was held throughout October and included an exclusive event at Zoo Miami for the young photographers to enjoy a private tour, up-close animal interactions, and wildlife photography tips from Magill.

Nikon representatives also provided students with digital photography equipment to borrow and memory cards to keep, while Pitman Photo Supply offered gift certificates for free photo printing.

“This is now our fifth year holding the ZoolensSM photography contest and we couldn’t be prouder to offer this creative and educational outlet that engages local students and builds awareness of wildlife throughout our community,” said Mercantil Commercebank President and COO Al Peraza in a release. “We are thoroughly impressed by the improving quality and creativeness of the photographs, and we are honored to recognize the talent of these students through ZoolensSM.”

The nearly 300 entries submitted were reviewed for composition, artistic merit, technical ability, and title by a panel of judges. The distinguished group included Magill, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Patrick Farrell of the Miami Herald, internationally acclaimed photo artist María Martínez-Cañas, New World School of the Arts visual arts professor and curator Rosario Martínez-Cañas, and Zoological Society of Florida Board Member Grizzel Gonzalez.

The ceremony was attended by over 150 guests including students, families, teachers and contest judges as well as Zoo Miami Director Eric Stephens.

For more about the ZoolensSM Photography Project visit or

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