On a clear and cool April 11th evening, the second annual Swim for Jenny Memorial Fund gala was held at the historical Deering Estate. The tributary affair honored donors and supporters of the water safety, drowning prevention and swimming education cause which, to date, has raised over $100,000 for the community.
Honorees included NFL Hall of Famer Larry Little, Assurant Inc., AvMed Health Plans, the Nguyen family, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Jordan, County Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa, Community Bank, the BOMA Golf and Spa Committee, the Keys Gate Charter School, DFYIT Club, iSwim winner RJ McLaughlin, and community members Danielle Dulevich and Demi Dominguez.
More than 200 people in attendance enjoyed complimentary cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, burgers, desserts and espresso before the evening’s official proceedings began. A silent charity auction was held inside, the items of which were all provided generously by donors.
Swim for Jenny is named for Jenny Hong Nguyen, a 12 year old South Florida girl who suffered a drowning accident at a birthday party on April 16, 2011. Her death inspired her best friend’s mother, Susie Vega, to found the fund which awards swimming scholarships – costing roughly $30 for a two week course taught under Red Cross guidelines – to children who cannot afford it. She currently serves as the Chairperson of the Executive Committee.
“Where years ago they would provide classes to the underserved children of Miami- Dade at no charge, due to budget cuts over the years that’s just not an offering anymore, and that’s where the Swim for Jenny Memorial Fund comes into play,” she said.
“We were able to give 500 scholarships away last year, so that’s 500 people that I’d say we’ve saved who wouldn’t have been able to afford swimming lessons otherwise.”
AvMed representatives attended the event and spoke eagerly of their support of the cause, to which their company donated $10,000. The official administrator for the health plans of all Miami-Dade County employees, they also support a wide range of wellness-related community initiatives.
“Our ongoing mission and vision is to improve the health of community residents and this is a good opportunity to help a great cause,” said Patricia Nelson, Regional Head of Strategic Accounts. “Nobody in Miami is very far from water, so while it makes for a beautiful place to live, if you don’t know how to swim it can be quite threatening.”
Local specialty risk management company, Assurant Solutions, contributed $10,000 as well. “Having been a part of this community since 1948, we take our role very seriously in how we support our neighbors,” said Senior VP of Integrated Marketing Communications Ana Rojas-Filliben. “Assurant is pleased to support the Swim for Jenny Memorial Fund and share in their mission to provide swimming scholarships to children across Miami- Dade County.”
As night fell, Zoo Miami’s Ron Magill took to the stage to introduce presenters and honorees. A special award was presented to former Miami Dolphin Larry Little, who raised $15,000 for the fund through his annual charity golf tournament held at Crandon Park. He has been a steadfast supporter of the foundation since its inception.
“Last year I was approached about using my golf tournament to help Swim for Jenny, and her story really touched my heart because I know how significant it is for young kids to learn how to swim,” he said. “What I’d like to see is enough funds raised so that every park and public pool in Miami-Dade County can provide swimming lessons.”
Nationally, drowning is the leading cause of death of children ages one to four, and the second up to 19 years old. Miami-Dade County leads the state in drowning deaths.
“It’s really sad when you have to confine your life based on your inability to swim,” said County Commissioner Jordan. “When I think about the geographic area of Miami-Dade County, we’re just surrounded by water and swimming should be a natural thing.”
For more information, visit online at www.swimforjenny.org