Out and About: Helping Our Children Soar

By Gayle Guynup, Herald-Tribune,  Friday, November 14, 2014

The Children’s Guardian Fund Fall Luncheon at Michael’s on East was all about “Helping Our Children Soar.”

The Children’s Guardian Fund partners with the Guardian Ad Litem program to provide resources to enrich the lives of children in foster and state care in Florida’s 12th Judicial Circuit.

Among those attending were former Sen. Bob and Pat Johnson, Sen. Nancy Detert, CGF Board Chair Hal Hedley, Luan and Tim Hedley, Mike Michalson, Patricia Tuccio, Suzanne Atwell, Bob and Natalie Leffert, Ian and Audrey Sharp, Karen Bogues, Alan Quinby, co-chairs Carol and Mort Siegler, Gary Corson, Elizabeth Johnson, Wendy Cox, Bill and Linda Berliner, Donal O’Shea, Graci McGillicuddy and many more.

“This is all about celebrating the children,” said Hal Hedley, adding that “Our goal is to make sure these children have everything other children have.”

Noting that there are 1,000 children “in care,” he added that “Most kids in foster care just need a boost – not pity, don’t even go there – just a boost.”

Keynote speaker Sen. Bill Galvano said that “The role of government should be to do for those who cannot do for themselves,” namely the disabled, mentally ill, and, of course, children.

“Government should be there for those who get tangled in the tentacles of life,” he said, adding there is still much work to be done. He was named an honorary Guardian ad Litem, “for being a wonderful advocate for Florida’s most vulnerable children.”

Connie Shingledecker then introduced Tacinda Johnson and Alexis Hernandez, who spoke of their experiences with the Guardian Ad Litem program.

Tacinda, “Tasha” to her friends, is an aspiring aesthetician. The 18-year-old senior at Southeast High School was 10 when her mother passed away, which led to foster care and living in a group home. Thanks to the Guardian Ad Litem program, “I was able to have a great senior year, just like everyone should,” she said. “More than just buying me things, they showed me that there are people who really care.”

Alex Hernandez, a senior at Bayshore High School, was put into a group home with his two sisters and one brother. Though being taken away from his mother took a toll on his grades, he will graduate this year with a 3.5 GPA, and plans to be the first in his family to attend college. Since his sister was old enough to be a caregiver, their family stayed together. Their Guardian Ad Litem “treats us like family,” Alex said. “We are truly thankful that you are part of our lives.”

Joan Geyer, who has been helping disadvantaged youth for two decades, then received the Child Advocate of the Year award. “The measure of a great society is how it cares for its weakest citizens,” she said. “And this community steps up to take care of its children.”

See gallery from Helping Our Children Soar

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