It’s been almost a month since we hosted nearly 30 World War II veterans for the Spirit of ‘45, an annual, nation-wide initiative to preserve the legacy of the “Greatest Generation.” The mission of Spirit of ‘45 is to inspire Americans to come together to meet historic challenges of our era through examples of personal courage, shared sacrifice, “can-do” attitude and service to community demonstrated by the men and woman of the WWII era.
I had the honor of interviewing five World War II veterans for this special occasion: Julian M. Syphax, Col. S. Buddy Harris, Lt. Col. Leo Gray, Gilbert Neufeld, and Morton Wiener. With 9/11 having just passed, I thought I’d share snip bits from these heroes interviews in the spirit of paying tribute to all men and woman who serve of country, from military personnel to first responders. Enjoy!
Marlins Ayudan never stops giving back to the community, and last week was no exception! Blue Shirts completed five service projects; that’s one for every day of the work week!
To get in the spirit of the new school year, Blue Shirts returned early to Coral Way K – 8 last Monday to help beautify the school for Opening Day. 21 Blue Shirts from Marlins Ayudan teams Ana’s Heroes, Kickin’ Asphalt, and Habitat for Winning planted bushes, painted offices, loaded furniture into classrooms and pressure washed exterior walls and sidewalks.
With all that manpower, Marlins Ayudan was able to save custodians two weeks worth of work! That’s 80 hours they can now devote to Principal Dovale’s other needs.
On Tuesday, the Marlins 2015 MVP (Most Valuable Professionals) Intern Class participated in their very own, interns-only Ayudan event. 34 interns visited Monkey Jungle to assist with the removal of air potato vines, an invasive species, from their Amazonian rainforest preserve. The air potato is considered an injurious weed because of its tendency to grow rather tenaciously, preventing native plants from reaching sunlight.
Interns received special access into the preserved forest. As soon as they entered the canopy, they were bombarded by squirrel monkeys whose only interest was the possibility of food. Once they realized there wasn’t any, they quickly retreated back to the canopy above. Interns removed air potato vines for an hour as they listened to the cries of howler monkeys and exotic birds.
Monkey Jungle was so generous. They provided lunch and snacks for the interns and gave each one of them two boxes of raisins to feed the monkeys. Everyone had a great time and can’t wait for the next intern event in October.
Wednesday consisted of two events: refreshing Citrus Grove Elementary’ s garden in the morning and distributing school supplies to local families in the evening.
Team Pulse visited Citrus Grove Elementary earlier this year, in March, and completely revived the school’s vegetable and spice garden, preparing it to become an outdoor classroom for 5th grade science students. This time around, Pulse pulled weeds and laid new mulch to beautify the garden for the start of a new school year.
On Wednesday evening, 21 Blue Shirts helped distribute school supplies to needy families on the East Plaza of Marlins Park. Our park served as the official launch for Kiwanis of Little Havana’s annual Back to School Distribution. This week, Kiwanis will visit eight local schools to distribute school supplies, three of which are Marlins Ayudan partner schools.
Marlins Foundation has partnered with Kiwanis for the last four years. Our support has allowed the organization to increase the number of families it serves. Marlins Foundation co-sponsored the Back to School Program with a $20,000 gift! By the end of the week, 8,000 book bags filled with school supplies will have been distributed.
Ayudan team C’mon Blue visited the Fisher House on Friday to prepare a Mexican meal for veterans’ families. The menu included Mexican lasagna and rice, homemade refried beans, tacos, fajitas, enchiladas and tres leches for dessert. This week, Ayudan champions The Voice will visit the Fisher House. Let’s see if their cooking skills are as good as their reputation!
Last week was a busy one for the community outreach department of the Miami Marlins. Summer was a welcome break from our Marlins Ayudan School Partnership Program. It allowed us to complete multiple Ayudan service projects every week of the summer, but with the start of school right around the corner, it was time for us to begin planning for the 2015-2016 school year.
Adrian Mora, Marlins Ayudan Manager, Sarah Orndorff, Community Outreach and Educational Initiatives Coordinator and I, Community Outreach Intern, met with five of our seven partner schools to discuss proposals for the coming year. We have a lot of great events planned for our partners, the first being “Welcome Back” breakfasts for staff members sponsored by correlating Marlins Ayudan teams. Other benefits include the continuation of our signature MASPP programs (CWS, mentoring, and reading literacy), vision and dental screenings, student volunteer action teams and more!
Marlins Ayudan also stayed busy last week with two events: Marlins G.P.S. Summer BBQ at Miami Bridge Youth and Family Services and Ana’s Heroes Lunch Preparation at Fisher House. Miami Bridge is a new partner of Marlins Ayudan. Friday was the first time an Ayudan team has visited the shelter. Miami Bridge is a 24-hour emergency shelter for abused, neglected, and abandoned youth. The organization’s mission is to rescue and empower those in need.
Marlins G.P.S. team members hung out with and got to know youth at the shelter. They played pool, video games and board games. Scattergories was a crowd favorite! I think at least 20 rounds must have been played! For lunch, everyone enjoyed burgers, hot dogs, popcorn chicken, chips, fruits and vegetables. Cupcakes and a cake with “Marlins Ayudan <3’s Miami Bridge” were served for dessert. Everyone from the shelter was so happy and invited us to come back again soon.
Ana’s Heroes prepared an Italian feast for the guests of Fisher House. Veterans’ families enjoyed a pasta bar with homemade sauces, salad, garlic bread and ice cream for dessert. Guests lined up, waiting patiently to serve themselves hot, fresh food. When Marlins Ayudan first began to visit Fisher House for meal preparations, they used to see one, maybe two guests if they were lucky. Marlins Ayudan visits Fisher House from 10:00am-12:30pm, which is during the same time families visit their loved ones at the VA next door. Since our Fisher House visits have become more regular, every Friday, the guests start crowding the dining area before the food is even set out! It is a great experience for all. Team members get to bond with and learn about one another and guests get a delicious home cooked meal. Fisher House visits are filled all the way through September. Check back in to see what Marlins Ayudan team The Blue Angels has on this week’s menu!
The following is a Guest Blog Post from Karl Ebert, Event Services Manager for the Miami Marlins:
Proud to be an American? I am. I most definitely am proud to be an American. I had the very distinctive honor to fly to visit the troops that keep us free. In December 2014, I and 8 others (3 players, 3 Energy Team members and 2 other front office staff) embarked on an incredible journey to Oman, Qatar and UAE. We visited the troops on Army and Air Force bases in those countries, getting to take a look into their everyday lives while on deployment. We were not on the front line and there was no one shooting at us, but the behind the scenes life on base was just as eye-opening as what we are shown in the media.
The men and women we met gave us a great insight into the military, their struggles and accomplishments and the war itself. This trip is meant for us to give back to the troops, but in many ways, I think we took away more than the troops did. It was humbling to know that while we were on a trip of a lifetime, the troops were also having the time of their lives, meeting baseball players, getting autographs and seeing performances. For us, it was operating the explosive robots, riding in the front line vehicles, taking photos with the patriot missiles, letting the military dogs chase us, singing karaoke, or just sharing a meal together. They may not have been Marlins fans or even baseball fans, but they were open to meeting us and seeing something different.
At times we get caught up in the monotony of our everyday lives, but over there it really opens your eyes that these guys, even though they may not be Marlins fans, or baseball fans in general, appreciated every second of it. To us, giveaways are no big deal, the dance performances don’t change and an autograph session is the same as any other — but to the troops, they mean everything. It becomes a taste of home for them, it’s a way for them to disconnect and it reminds us just how important what we do is.
The highlight of the trip for me was to actually break away from the group and spend time with a bunch of troops who served in Fire Department of the base. We didn’t go driving in the truck, or put on the suit, or hook the hose up put out imaginary fires; we sat around a table and did a puzzle, just talking. We played games and just got to know each other.
It was in one of those conversations that it dawned on me that we were both in that room, in Oman, serving each other. The military is a wonderful thing when you think about it. It has a way of gathering thousands of people together from all parts of the country and all walks of life, connecting them all. Land of the free, home of the brave: they aren’t just words in our anthem; they are a creed to live by and what our troops defend.
From all those men and women I met over there, they will defend that creed to a resounding theme that we are all Americans and damn proud of it.
Marlins Ayudan teams have kicked it into high gear since the start of the 2015-2016 Ayudan competitive year in June. Fourteen team events have been held from June 13th to present day. That’s an average of two events every week!
On Monday July 20th, Ayudan team Ana’s Heroes visited Las Palmas Senior Center with four members of the Marlins Energy Team. Blue Shirts and Energy Teamers danced and chatted with elderly residents, played bingo and dominos, and enjoyed pastelitos and croquettes provided by Ana’s Heroes.
Every resident of the center had a smile on their face! They couldn’t have been happier to have us. One resident explained that their usual guests are representatives from wellness centers and nurses reminding them to take their medication and check their blood pressure. The Marlins were a welcome change. Las Palmas enjoyed the visit so much that they told five of their other elderly centers who can’t wait to have the Marlins visit them!
On Thursday July 23rd, Ayudan team Habitat for Winning took a drive down to Good Hope Equestrian Training Center to assist with therapeutic riding sessions for adult participants with intellectual disabilities. Participants performed various exercises while riding horses. Three Blue Shirts surrounded each rider, one on either side of the horse and one to lead, to ensure their safety while offering encouragement and praise for a job well done. Blue Shirts also helped saddle horses and give them baths after sessions were through.
Today, Marlins Ayudan had two events! The Voice took a group of 25 youth from the Boys and Girls Club to Bird Bowl. Youth bowled with Blue Shirts for an hour and a half before pizza and soda were served for lunch, which was instantly devoured! Everyone had a great time and The Voice was happy to engage the kids in a little friendly competition followed by high fives and “Good job!”
Every Friday during the summer, an Ayudan team has visited Fisher House to prepare a meal for families of veterans who are being treated at the VA. Team Fishing for Potential covered today’s Fisher House Friday and prepared a taco bar with all the fixin’s! The menu featured homemade mango salsa, refried beans and guacamole. Other dishes included chicken and beef tacos and burritos, queso dip, jalapeño poppers and taquitos. The guests really enjoyed the food, especially the mango salsa! They were so appreciative of our support. It truly is our pleasure to help.