Poker is important to Palmetto High School junior Jared Heller. Heller organizes a poker tournament to raise money for a charity the helps wheelchair bound children. He took over the responsibility of the tournament when the former organizer went on to college. The money raised goes to he Community Committee for Developmental Handicaps (CCDH).
“The money we raise is for kids in public schools who need wheelchairs or repairs to wheelchairs,” Heller says. “I get emails from them after the tournament. They send me pictures of where the money went. It’s nice to see who the money is really benefiting. You can see a smiling face.”
This year marked the 10th anniversary for the annual tournament. Heller has been involved for three years now. Like the original organizer, Michael Grant, who spent a short time in a wheelchair, Heller can empathize with kids who are in wheelchairs because he broke his leg and had to use crutches for a while. He also fell and had a compound fracture of his collarbone.
“One of my good friends in middle school was in a wheelchair and I spent a lot of time with him,” Heller says.
The poker tournament is held at Bet Shira and usually draws about 100 participants.
“We also get donations before and sometimes after,” he says. “This year we’ve raised over $6,000. In previous years we raised over $5,000. We had more tables and we tried to open it up to more people.”
Heller already has friends helping him who should be able to take over when he leaves for college at the end of the next school year.
At Palmetto, Heller is a member of the National Honor Society and he’s on the newspaper staff as the managing/design editor.
“I’m in charge of checking over all the pages, making sure they are designed correctly and that they have the right formats,” he says.
“I’m in charge of giving some of the grades in the class.”
Heller works with the editor to make sure everything is completed on time to insure that they have a good issue. He also writes for the newspaper’s on-line website.
“I like to write a lot of editorials for the online section,” he says.
The editorials range from serious, such as the one about people leaving their trash scattered around the school, and a tongue-incheck piece that sarcastically listed 10 reasons that President Obama on his recent visit to South Florida chose to speak at Coral Reef High School instead of Palmetto.
During the summer, Heller has been escaping the Miami heat by going to summer camp in Maine. This year he plans to work at the camp as a counselor in training.
Outside of school, Heller enjoys weight training and he boxes with a trainer. He says he fell in love with boxing, but only as a workout.
“One of my favorite things to do is fish,” he says. “Partially because of my dad; fishing is his thing. If he’s not working, we’ll go to a lake or a canal or to the ocean.”
Heller’s community service includes taking part in Relay for Life.
“I’m always part of a team,” he says.
— By Linda Rodriguez Bernfelda