The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation is pleased to announce its Community Champions for the third quarter of FY16. These employees were nominated by their colleagues and are being recognized for their work with local non-profit organizations, where they donate their time and energy to improve quality of life for their neighbors. The Champions’ chosen nonprofits will receive a $500 grant from The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation.
Case Manager, NeuroRestorative Avalon Park
Robin McInnis volunteers with Camp Boggy Creek in Eustis, FL, a place where children with serious illnesses can have a fun-filled camp experience with activities including swimming and horseback riding.
Robin volunteers during the camp’s family weekends, supporting an individual family in participating in activities and seeing that their needs are met while at camp. She also supports the equestrian staff by caring for the horses and taking them on trail rides for exercise.
Robin loves supporting the children and families who come to Boggy Creek, and she loves the horses, too. A rider since age 5, she took a summer job in the camp’s equestrian barn after college. Since then she’s come back year after year to help with camp activities as well as fundraising efforts like the Boggy Creek Competitive Trail Ride.
Robin enjoys volunteering at Boggy Creek because it gives the children a fun camp experience they otherwise wouldn’t have. Because there is an on-site hospital to help with any medical needs they have while at camp, the kids can relax and focus on having fun.
“When they’re at camp, they’re normal. They get to see other children who have the same thing they do, so they’re not singled out. They don’t get to feel that very often,” Robin said.
In addition to her work with the camp, Robin has served as a judge and volunteer for Special Olympics Equestrian. She also volunteers for a therapeutic riding facility called Heavenly Hooves and has even gotten NeuroRestorative participants involved.
“Animals are therapeutic. When walking, a horse has the same natural gait as us. Participants can experience the freedom of the feeling that they’re walking. It makes them more comfortable with opening up, and gives them the freedom to do what they might not be able to do on the ground,” Robin said.
Caring for others has been a part of Robin’s life for many years. Her father experienced a brain injury in 2001, and as a Case Manager for NeuroRestorative, she’s made a career of helping people overcome challenges. Whether it’s working with individuals with brain injury or helping a child forget about their illness for a while, she loves being able to make someone else’s life better.
“The community benefits tremendously whenever Robin is volunteering her time and service. She is an exceptionally selfless individual, always looking for ways to create a positive experience for someone,” said Twightla Morris, Program Director, who nominated Robin.
For more information about Camp Boggy Creek, visit www.boggycreek.org.
Activities Director, CareMeridian
Jesus Ocampo donates his time as a coach in the American Youth Soccer Organization’s VIP (Very Important Player) program in Garden Grove, CA. The VIP program enables players with a wide range of challenges including developmental disabilities, blindness and mobility challenges to play soccer in a supportive environment that improves self-esteem and helps them make new friends. Jesus says it brings him joy to see the children having fun and being a part of the team.
“It makes the kids so happy. They come and give me a big hug and smile. I love to bring a smile to people. I love to make people happy,” he said.
Jesus became involved with the VIP team through his son, who plays on the team. During the soccer season, the team practices twice a week and plays games each weekend. Jesus also hosts social events at his home for the players and their families to reinforce the sense of community on the team. For him, it’s a chance to help youth with complex challenges to feel included, build confidence and achieve their goals.
“We don’t talk about their disability,” Jesus said. “I tell them, ‘You’re a member of this team. You have the power to do whatever you want. You can play as well as anyone else.’”
In his position as Activities Director for CareMeridian in Garden Grove, CA, Jesus demonstrates a similar commitment to helping people with brain injury and other challenges pursue their goals and interests. He assists participants with daily living tasks such as shopping as well as community outings and fun activities such as going to movies. His guiding principle is to build a sense of trust with the individuals he supports so they know they can count on him to help them through any challenge.
“He has a passion for helping people and to see them reach their fullest potential,” said Hanna Van der Walt, Clinical Services Specialist, who nominated Jesus.
For more information about the VIP program, visit www.ayso59.org.
Marketing Specialist, The MENTOR Network
Elizabeth Farley volunteers at Pine Street Inn, a shelter that serves homeless individuals in the Boston area with meals, emergency services, transitional housing and job training. She helps out in the Inn’s emergency shelter as part of a group of young professionals called the Innbassadors who help with fundraising and organizing events. She also helps whenever needed with cooking and serving meals. This past holiday season, Elizabeth and her fellow volunteers raised nearly $20,000 to give every individual served by the shelter a sweatshirt, hat, gloves and scarf to help them stay warm.
Elizabeth likes volunteering at the Inn in part because of the empowering nature of its mission.
“It’s not just a shelter. Its mission is to help people in need journey out of homelessness,” she said. “Homelessness can be a vicious cycle, especially in a place like Boston. The Pine Street Inn helps people get on the right path.”
For the past two years, the chance to work directly with the individuals who count on the Pine Street Inn’s services has brought Elizabeth back each week to lend a hand.
“I look forward to seeing the individuals at the shelter and being able to provide events like bingo nights or serve a meal. It’s a tangible impact,” she said.
In addition to her work with the Pine Street Inn, Elizabeth is also active with her local Boys and Girls Club and Cradles to Crayons, which provides children in need with basic items such as clothing, school supplies, toys and books. As a marketing specialist in The Network’s Public Strategy Group, she is also an enthusiastic supporter of the annual employee Volunteer Day, helping to organize the event and make it a great experience for volunteers and the organizations served across the country.
“Elizabeth is a genuinely good, sincere and caring person. You know that after the first conversation with her,” said Liz Flynn, Internal Communications Specialist, who nominated Elizabeth. “She helps people without judging them or holding them to unrealistic expectations. She empathizes and does everything she can to help them.”
For more information about the Pine Street Inn, visit www.pinestreetinn.org.
About The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation
The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation is committed to transforming the delivery of human services through the generation of new ideas and best practices. We seek to advance an agenda based on quality, accountability and respect for the individual. The focus of our giving is on organizations that take a fresh look—through research, innovative thinking, direct care and programming—at how people with disabilities and youth and families facing emotional, behavioral and other challenges are cared for in our society. The Foundation also works to expand opportunity for the people we serve through employment and educational support.