By Sharon Robb
December 23, 2013
Several South Florida Aquatic Club swimmers got a life lesson while bringing holiday cheer to dozens of underprivileged children on Monday at the Broward Health Seventh Avenue Family Health Center in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
SOFLO’s Booster Club with the help of Friends of Weston started a toy drive more than two weeks ago collecting toys from swimmers, families and community at Academic Village Pool in Pembroke Pines.
SOFLO then went a step further.
During its’ annual Holiday Breakfast and Party for 400 this past Saturday morning, each age group swimmer, from the Dippers to national team, went around tables loaded with toys, games and school supplies and chose age-appropriate gifts for girls and boys and packaged them before hand-delivering 60 bags to children, ages 3-14, at the center.
The Friends of Weston contributed new children’s clothes to add to the Christmas goodie bag.
More than 20 swimmers of all ages in two separate groups along with a handful of parents took turns distributing the toys for more than two hours at the center.
“We found this amazing group, Friends of Weston that does year-round activities and they helped us organize this,” said SOFLO Booster Club secretary Vicky Quintero.
“We wanted to do something together for the holidays and we really wanted the kids involved, not only collecting toys and dropping them in a box, but delivering and distributing them,” Quintero said.
The Booster Club put up posters and passed flyers out to help promote the toy drive.
“I think this being the first time we are very proud of our results,” Quintero said. “The children and their parents at the center were very thankful. Our swimmers got a chance to see where the bags were going.
“I think our kids appreciated what they did today and the parents did, too,’ Quintero said. “It’s a start. We would like to continue it next year and get more kids involved and more donations.”
The swimmers seemed to be enjoying themselves at the health center.
“It was really nice seeing the kids, some of them were really small and didn’t know what was going on but you could tell the older ones were really excited,” said SOFLO swimmer Jessica Rodriguez, a freshman at Hialeah Gardens High School.
“We were happy to give them the gifts,” Rodriguez said. “I felt good about what we did. We gave gifts to people who needed them. They were so happy and that made me happy. It was the true meaning of Christmas.”
SOFLO head coach Chris Anderson was impressed with the joint efforts of the Booster Club and swimmers.
“I thoroughly enjoyed watching our swimmers’ interaction during the party when they were picking gifts for the kids,” Anderson said.
“Our kids really got into picking out each gift. You could tell our kids were processing what they were doing. It wasn’t about only collecting a gift but it was choosing the right gift for the right age.”
Anderson said it was a great testimony to the team’s camaraderie and generosity.
“I am so proud of the kids getting emotionally-attached to what they were doing,” Anderson said. “They were genuinely enthused about what they were doing. It was nice for our Booster Club. They did a great job and everything was organized. It was nice to see everyone interacting for a good cause.”
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org