South Florida groups help others overcome challenges

The “No Barriers Festival” gave Team Paradise an opportunity to showcase its Paralympic program in front of 400 people with physical challenges, all taking place at their home dock at Shake-A-Leg in Coconut Grove. Top on the list of goals for the week was bringing about awareness for Paralympic sailing and Team Paradise, with the hopes of finding more potential sailors who would like to get involved.

Gold Medal Olympian Sailor Magnus Liljedahl, the brainchild who created the Team Paradise program, reports that first time skipper and paraplegic veteran Darrel Kubacz and local amputee sailor Richard Hughes won the final event for the week, a three-race series in the Sonar class. Elizabeth Kratzig’s onboard coaching added to the talented dous success.

While Darrel lives in Arizona, he is keen to anxious to start sailing with Team Paradise on a regular basis. This will be one of many challenges for Darrel who has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, despite being a T4 paraplegic. Richard Hughes used to sail both Sonar and 2.4, but stopped about 10-years ago. He is now back and Liljedahl likes to think that Team Paradise had something to do with that. For more information on this remarkable program, go online to

The Epilepsy Foundation of Florida’s (EFOF) “Walk the Talk for Epilepsy 2009,” on May 3rd, raised $125,000 during the held at Miami’s Tropical Park and Hollywood Beach. Amazingly, the top fundraisers for the event were among the youngest: 9-year-old Olivia Davis and 5-year-old Ella Rubinson, who raised $13,406 and $10,366 respectively. Funds will benefit EFOF to provide many valuable services to the more than 360,000 Floridians with epilepsy and their families, regardless of their financial situations.

While Olivia Davis recently had brain surgery and could not attend the event, her family accepted her award, a cape for being a hero, on her behalf. Rubinson, who has epilepsy, and her 8-year-old brother (Noah Rubinson), who raised the second highest dollar amount of $10,366, were also presented with capes.

Event sponsors included A.G. Newmyer III Foundation, Perry Ellis International, Miccosukee Resort & Gaming, Shire, Dillard’s, AirTran Airways, Cyberonics, Pepsi, GFS, Chiquita Banana, Norman’s Brothers Fruits, Chick-fil-A, EuroSport Vitamin drinks, El Dorado Furniture, Hilton Fort Lauderdale, Miami-Dade County, Hyatt Miami. For more information, visit or call 305-670-4949.

Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe, Inc., the local lead agency for child welfare in Miami and the Keys, hosted its annual graduation ceremony on June 18, at the University of Miami for more than 100 students in state foster care who are graduating from high school or trade school. Two hundred guests gathered to celebrate this milestone for students who have fought against the odds to obtain their diplomas and degrees.

UM President Donna Shalala, President gave the keynote address. Other special guest speakers included Rep. Oscar Braynon II, Florida House of Representatives; Kionne McGhee, Assistant State Attorney, Miami- Dade State Attorney’s Office and Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent, Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

Until next week, keep making each day count. Keeping up with what’s happening in ourcommunity is quite a challenge and I am certain there are many activities I miss. If you would like to submit information for this column, send your news via e-mail to < >.

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About the Author

Gloria Burns
A graduate of the University of Florida with a major in Spanish, Burns has an extensive background in advertising, marketing and reciprocal trade, travel as well as non profit consulting and management. Active in many non profits, she received numerous awards across the community. Among her list of current responsibilities, Burns co-chairs two annual student recognition breakfasts for the Coral Gables Friends of Education; helps coordinate charity partners for the Westin Colonnade's Annual Give Kids the World Breakfast; serves on the board of directors of Doral Business Council; is Parliamentarian and serves on the board of the GFWC Coral Gables Woman’s Club; serves the board of the Rotary Club of Coral Gables and is Publicity Chair; and is a member of the Jr. Orange Bowl Committee. Gloria is also an active member of the Music Ministry at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, where she sings in the choir. She can be reached at

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