Published On: Wed, Oct 3rd, 2018

Volunteerism Is Alive And Well In Boca Raton

By: Jay Van Vechten

In a 2015 study, it was determined that 62 million Americans volunteer annually, representing nearly 25% of all US residents. Together those who volunteer spend 7.9 billion hours helping others. Monetize those efforts and you’re looking at an annual commitment of $184 billion in community support.

Locally, volunteerism has always been at the heart of Boca Raton, perhaps even more so than in many other cities in Florida – or for that fact nationally.  Create a cause; find a purpose and people will line up to help in this town. With more than 60 local charities to choose from, the options for residents to support something they believe in are almost endless.

One such cause is my own charity, the American Disabilities Foundation, Inc., and our annual event, the Boating & Beach Bash for People with Disabilities.  The Bash celebrated its 10th anniversary this past March. It has evolved into the largest, free, one-day event in the nation for families with special needs. Held locally at Spanish River Park in Boca, this year’s Bash hosted nearly 6,000 people of all ages and with every imaginable disability.

Our guests and their caregivers are treated to a day of riding private yachts, enjoying a BBQ picnic, playing games based on abilities – not disabilities, and getting to enjoy a concert that celebrates diversity.

But this unique day would be impossible without the volunteers who support it. A core group of 25 steer the event during the six-month planning stage. But on the day of the Bash upwards of 400 people of all ages step forward to make this a memorable day every attendee.

As for me, I was disabled from an accident in 2001. My wife Lowell has a brother who has been institutionalized for 50 years. Together, our commitment to helping others has never wavered. It has meant dedicating our retirement years to making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.

What about our other committee members? In a recent survey, we discovered that every member of our team has been touched by a disability, which motivated them to join with us in giving back and helping others who have been similarly impacted by physical or even mental challenges. Their deeply personal reasons, which we hope to share with you in the coming weeks, underscore the fact that disabilities are never far from our own front door.

So what has ever moved you to volunteer? Have you thought about it?  Perhaps you’ll find your answer on this list of possible motivating factors:

  • to feel needed
  • to share a skill
  • to get to know a community
  • to demonstrate commitment to a cause/belief
  • to exercise your civic duty
  • to donate your professional skills
  • to have an impact
  • to be challenged
  • to make new friends
  • to do something different from your job
  • to keep skills alive
  • to be part of a team

If you’ve never volunteered before or would like to start now that you live in our area, think about what interests you and start making calls to organizations that could benefit from your donation of time – perhaps the most precious thing you have to offer them.   Here are just a few categories to consider: Animals and Pet Rescue; Culture and the Arts; Children and Youth; Community Activism; Crisis Support; Disabilities; Literacy and Education; Environment; Health; Homelessness; Hunger; Politics; Seniors; Veterans, and Women’s Issues.

If you are interested in specific volunteer opportunities in Boca Raton, check out the listings at bocaguide.com/volunteer.html.  You can also contact the Spirit of Giving Network.  The Network’s staff will train you in how to volunteer while matching your interests and skills with a local nonprofit organization. Visit www.spiritofgivingnetwork.com or call 561.385.0144.

For information about the Boating & Beach Bash for People with Disabilities visit our website: www.boatingbeachbash.com.   You can also sign up on the website to volunteer at the next Bash, Sunday, March 10th, 2019. If you’d like to join our Planning Committee, give me a call at 561.715.2622. Work is just getting underway and we’d welcome your help.

About the Author

- Jay Van Vechten is a retired New York City PR man. He operated his own award winning agency for 25 years until a fall changed his life. A full time resident of Boca Raton, Van Vechten chairs the American Disabilities Foundation, Inc., and serves as the Executive Director of the annual Boating & Beach Bash for People with Disabilities. He was recently named Direct Service Provider of the Year by the Special Needs Advisory Coalition of Palm Beach County. He is also the past Chair of the City of Boca Raton Advisory Board for People with Disabilities. And currently sits on the city’s Community Advisory Panel.

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