MCI raises $110K for Liberty City youth

Eighty volunteers go “over the edge” of the Marriott Marquis

D. Kevin McNeir | 9/12/2013, 9:35 a.m.
As this writer can personally attest, rappelling 19 stories (200 meters) down the JW Marriott Marquis Miami [255 Biscayne Blvd. ...

As this writer can personally attest, rappelling 19 stories (200 meters) down the JW Marriott Marquis Miami [255 Biscayne Blvd. Way] is not for the faint-at-heart. But after an essential training course and with a bit of needed cajoling, some 80 volunteers demonstrated their commitment to improving the lives of Liberty City’s children and families last Friday and Saturday during the second annual “Over the Edge” fundraiser, sponsored by the Miami Children’s Initiative [MCI].

According to Cecilia Gutierrez-Abety, managing director, MCI, pledges for the event totaled $110K, with each participant raising a minimum of $1,500 in donations.

“It is inspiring to see so many South Floridians ready to literally go ‘over the edge’ for Liberty City’s children – it’s truly a testament to the importance of our mission,” she said.

“We were the first to bring this innovative fundraiser to Miami and we did it to bring national attention to the work we’re doing in Liberty City. What’s happening in this community is daring and visionary – together we’re all going over the edge to improve the lives of others.”

Like the Harlem Children’s Zone project, MCI takes a block-by-block approach to breaking the cycle of poverty by investing in the potential of every child. They partner with Liberty City residents, youth, religious centers, schools, businesses and non-profit organizations. Those who took the ‘plunge’ last weekend included: State Senator Dwight Bullard; M-DC School Board Member Dr. Lawrence Feldman; City Commissioner Raquel Regalado; County Commissioner Juan Zapata; M-DC School Board Superintendent Alberto Carvalho; and an 80-year-old grandmother.

There was even a new twist this year after a social media contest identified one couple who exchanged their wedding vows at the top of the hotel before rappelling in their tuxedo and wedding gown.

Mother of six rappels for her children

Alicia Levy, 31, rappelled from the Marriott right before this writer summoned the courage to follow her – and yes, we were both somewhat nervous. But the Overtown-born, Liberty City mother of six (ranging in ages from 15 to 2) said she said she was doing it for her children, despite efforts to talk her out of it by several adult relatives.

“I live along 60th and 18th Avenue among the three blocks that MCI supports,” she said. “After they got my oldest son involved and excited, I decided to volunteer. Now I’m a board member, I’ve helped with the community clean up project and we have a safe place for our children to play. What MCI is doing for us and with us is awesome. We have had a lot of people come into our community before making all kinds of promises but MCI has delivered. When I take my kids to their building, it feels like home.”

For more information go to www.miamichildrensinitiative.com.