Ana Lorenzo and son
When students in the BBA+ Weekend program in the College of Business Administration embarked on a journey to raise nearly $20,000 for Project Thrive, the Infant & Toddler Stimulation Program of ARC (Association for Retarded Citizens of South Florida), they weren’t sure they’d reach their goal.
“It seemed like it could be very difficult,” Xiomara M. Alfaro, who was in charge of marketing, said of the largest fundraising attempt ever mounted by members of the “Business in Society” class in the program. “It was a lot of money.”
But through a number of fundraisers—including raffles, lunches, and a flea market—and the generous donations of companies and individuals, the effort netted more than $26,000. The money was destined for the purchase of specialized computer equipment to improve the educational and developmental chances for children with disabilities.
“Donors qualified at various sponsorship levels from $250 up to $2,000 or more,” said Ana Lorenzo, who along with class president Melanie G. Barnick, served as project leaders. “Our success was also due to the incredible amount of work that everyone in the cohort put into the project.”
By mid-December, the Project Thrive center in West Kendall had installed the computers in its classrooms. The cohort members, a number of donors, the director of Project Thrive at the site, and the director of ARC South Florida attended a special ceremony, which included a tour of the facilities.
“Seeing the children at the computers was amazing,” Alfaro said.
Each BBA+ Weekend cohort undertakes a community service project, selecting from options presented by group members. Lorenzo made the successful pitch for the ARC project, which the cohort named “Spark for ARC.”
“I visited the West Kendall center and found out from the teachers exactly what they would need, then determined what it would cost, and included those details in my presentation,” she said. “To get one computer for each of the seven classrooms would come to $19,460, which became our goal.”
Lorenzo’s son is a student at the center and though he can control a standard mouse, she was aware that not everyone could.
“I would see my son working at the regular computer, but noticed that other children in the class weren’t able to,” she said. “That’s when I realized that specialized equipment could make a big difference in the kids’ lives.”
The units, including special software, have been designed to meet all the needs of these young learners. They come with a small mouse; touch screens; and special sight, sound, control, and durability features. The center will use the surplus funds to purchase additional software and other options—such as adaptors for children with physical disabilities—for the systems now in place.
The experience also made a big difference in the lives of the members of the BBA+ Weekend group. They have decided to get together and do a yearly project, even after they graduate.
“We learned that there are many organizations that need help,” Lorenzo said. “Now we have the tools in our hands to do provide that help.”