‘Dig Like Kim’ volleyball tournament a great success

The Village of Palmetto Bay on Sunday, May 15, hosted the second annual “Dig Like Kim” sand volleyball tournament fundraiser, an event honoring the late Kimberly Latshaw-Ortiz, a championship winning volleyball player and coach at area schools, as well as a supporter and advocate of helping kids and the community.

In mid-2019, Kim was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at age 46. She battled this malicious disease for almost two years while inspiring her friends, colleagues and a volleyball community with her spirit, determination and faith in God. She passed away on Jan. 30, 2021.

Twice as many players participated in the tournament this year as in 2021, with 19 teams registered for the tournament — 10 for the sand courts and nine for the grass courts — for a total of about 115 players.

Kim’s father, Chuck Latshaw, was pleased by the success of the event.

“This year, because it was open division and we had some really strong competitors, we thought with the cooperation of the village we could do grass courts too, which we did, and we had only one slot left for grass. It’s a lot of work, but it’s wonderful.”

There were even players from out of state, as far away as California — all players that Kim knew, like Cookie Stevens, a volleyball coaching legend who was Kim’s coach at Miami Dade College when Kim played there. She travelled from Indiana, didn’t play, but helped with the tournament.

The tournament raised funds to cover grants for deserving players to help them get into clubs and improve their chances for college scholarships.

“Part of the reason we do this is that Kim did this all the time with these kids,” her father said. “That’s why this is so important to us, as a way of not missing her as much as we do.”

In the volleyball tournament the winning teams were:
Sand Courts – Open Division: The Black Cats — Ben, Ellie, Julia, Devin and David Decker.
Grass Courts – Recreational Division: Gonzalo Fernandez, Adriana Fondura, Melissa and Matthew Kanakis.

Grants totaling $7,000 were awarded to seven high school students at a special presentation during the tournament. Grant money available for the awards was determined by revenue raised in the 2021 tournament. Based on the support of donors and the successful event this year, Dig Like Kim expects to increase the amount of grant money that will be available for the next series of candidates.

This year’s grant winners are:
Marlon Albornoz, sophomore, Southwest Miami High School;
Isabella Cruz, junior, Somerset Silver Palms High School;
Gabriella Weiner, junior, Palmetto High School;
Amaya Garcia, sophomore, Terra Environmental Research Institute High School;
Joni Furtwaengler, sophomore, Coral Reef High School;
Leila Nua, sophomore, Miami Killian High School, and
Catrina Garcia, sophomore, MAST Academy Homestead High School.

Village Mayor Karyn Cunningham presented the first award, then Kim’s children and family presented the rest of the awards. Mayor Cunningham had praise for Kim and the foundation bearing her name.

“This year, the Dig like Kim Foundation was able to present seven scholarships to seven deserving students and aspiring volleyball players,” Mayor Cunningham said. “The scholarships will help carry on the legacy that Kim Latshaw-Ortiz began through her coaching and mentorship in the community. Kim truly was a trailblazer and an inspiration!

I’m so glad the village is able to partner in such a worthy event.”

Dig Like Kim Inc. is a local non-profit organization that provides grants to Miami-Dade County high school student-athletes who play volleyball in order to help them to develop their abilities and gain exposure in the sport, hopefully leading to improved future opportunities.

The website is https://diglikekim.org/.

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