Published On: Mon, Nov 26th, 2018

Volunteerism Is Alive And Well In Boca Raton – Mark Hansen


By: Jay Van Vechten

In mid-November, the Rotary Club of Downtown Boca Raton held its annual Mayors Ball at Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club.  The well attended gala always brings out the biggest names in town. At every table you’ll spot someone you’ve seen or read about in the news during the last year.

The event honors our town’s mayors, past and present, with a silent auction, pre-dinner cocktail party, live big-ticket-auction, spirited dancing to a red-hot band, an exquisite meal, fine wines and enough joviality to give New Year’s Eve a run for its money.

At the heart of this glittering evening is the real purpose of the gala: Raising funds to assist 20 local charities, each of which looks to the  to support various programs and services that help those in need.

For my own foundation, the American Disabilities Foundation, the Club has been an extraordinary partner helping us feed upwards of 6,000 attendees at our annual Boating & Beach Bash for People with Disabilities.

Looking around the beautifully decorated ball room this year I was struck with the fact that everyone there has at one time or another undoubtedly struggled with a myriad of issues as well, be they health related, financial, emotional or familial in nature. I’ve certainly had my share.

Mark Hansen

During galas such as this I always think of my friends and my own foundation’s board members and how many of them, luminaries in their own right, have shared with me their own struggles in life.  One of them, Mark Hansen, a local realtor, author, public speaker and former member of the Palm Beach County School Board recently shared his story and has allowed me to now share it with you.

Mark grew up in Boca, in fact in the same Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club community where this year’s gala was held. When he was only seven, Mark was struck by a car on Royal Palm Way, directly in front of his house as he raced home for dinner. For eight days he lay in a coma at Boca Raton Community Hospital, now known as Boca Raton Regional Hospital.

When he awoke from his coma, he was paralyzed on one side of his body and unable to speak. He spent the next two months in the hospital.  Seizures plagued him for nine years afterwards, along with a grim prognosis from his team of doctors.  Because of the severity of his head injuries the medical staff told Mark’s parents that their son’s capacity to lead a full and productive life would be greatly diminished. The doctors warned that Mark would struggle in school, that it would be unlikely he’d ever be able to drive a car or even play at sports. Attending college would certainly be out of the question. It was their way of preparing Mark’s mother and father for what they felt would be an inevitable life of minimal expectations.

But miracles do happen. With the love and support of his family and his own sheer determination, Mark Hansen overcame every obstacle that challenged him along the way. He went on to graduate from college, launching a very successful career in real estate and eventually writing several books for young people about teen finance and managing money. His love of education led him to eventually seek public office when he ran for and won a place on the pinnacle of education in South Florida as a member of the very prestigious Palm Beach County School Board.

Mark says that, “Being a member of the American Disabilities Foundation and being able to participate in the Bash each year is a way for me to give back and help others in their own journey and with their own challenges.” We are ever grateful to have this beacon of hope on our team.

Perhaps your own challenges have prompted you to decide to ‘give back’ to the community. If you are interested in volunteering, I suggest you do the following:  First, think about what interests you and start making calls to organizations that could benefit from your donation of time. Use Google or the Yellow Pages for your initial research.

If you are interested in specific volunteer opportunities in Boca, check out the listings at You can also contact the Spirit of Giving Network at 561-299-1205.  The Network’s staff will train you in how to be a volunteer and help match you to a local nonprofit organization. Visit

For further information about the Boating & Beach Bash for People with Disabilities visit: or call 561.715.2622 to volunteer.

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