MAK­ING WAVES

Mak­ing Waves is our salute to the res­i­dents, busi­nesses and or­ga­ni­za­tions of South­west Florida’s is­land coast who make the com­mu­nity spe­cial

RSWLiving - - News - BY CRAIG GAR­RETT

Cel­e­brat­ing South­west Florid­i­ans

The goal seemed hardly pos­si­ble―to raise $100 mil­lion in do­na­tions for a new chil­dren’s hospi­tal, or nearly half of the $240 mil­lion project cost. The com­mit­ment over five years was daunt­ing, those be­hind the ef­fort said when it ended in Novem­ber. The seven-story Golisano Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal is lo­cated next to HealthPark at Sum­mer­lin and Bass roads. Open­ing the chil­dren’s cen­ter in April will pre­cede by a year the new Lee Health-Co­conut Point med­i­cal cam­pus in Es­tero.

From the be­gin­ning of the cam­paign to raise funds for the chil­dren’s hospi­tal, good things hap­pened, start­ing in 2012 with $20 mil­lion from a Naples bil­lion­aire. More con­tri­bu­tions fol­lowed, many at $500,000 or more each, but most in much smaller amounts. Sud­denly in Novem­ber it ended in a shower of con­fetti, happy sup­port­ers ac­cept­ing fi­nal do­na­tions of more than $3 mil­lion. The ini­tial $100 mil­lion goal, cap­i­tal cam­paign chair Joseph Catti says, was at first daunt­ing. “But so many peo­ple stepped up to the plate. Every dol­lar made a dif­fer­ence. It has been an honor to have been part of it.”

WA­TER WAR­RIORS

Col­lege and com­mu­nity vol­un­teers cleared more than 300 pounds of de­bris in the Caloosa­hatchee River Watch event. The work in Novem­ber was along a stretch of city man­aged creeks and pre­serves in the Palm Beach cor­ri­dor in Fort My­ers. Spon­sors in­cluded Caloosa­hatchee River­watch, Lee County Mos­quito Con­trol Dis­trict, Char­lotte Har­bor Na­tional Es­tu­ary Pro­gram, Amer­i­can Rivers, city of Fort My­ers, Keep Lee County Beau­ti­ful, Wright Con­struc­tion Group, Lee County Solid Waste, Hans Wil­son & As­so­ci­ates.

THEATRE CON­SPIR­ACY

Deemed edgy and giv­ing op­por­tu­nity to striv­ing play­wrights, Theatre Con­spir­acy in Jan­uary presents its 23rd con­sec­u­tive per­for­mance sched­ule.

Un­der­lin­ing the 2017 sea­son is au­thor Jeff Lind­say, who in March will stage The Cave, a play about Civil War sol­diers and a run­away slave. Lind­say has au­thored the Dexter nov­els that evolved into a tele­vi­sion se­ries. Philadel­phia play­wright Jared Michael De­laney’s Noli Timere (Don’t Be Afraid) also premieres in May. De­laney’s work was picked from 600 oth­ers in an an­nual Theatre Con­spir­acy con­test. The 2017 sea­son kicks off Jan. 20 with the stag­ing of 33 Vari­a­tions by Moises Kauf­man. Per­for­mances are at the Al­liance for the Arts, 10091 McGre­gor Blvd. in Fort My­ers.

FOS­TER GENIES

Com­pared to sur­round­ing coun­ties, the num­ber of fos­ter kids in Lee County is stag­ger­ing. Some 1,309 Lee County kids in Novem­ber were in fos­ter care, far more than Col­lier and Char­lotte coun­ties.

Jen­nifer Fis­cher had ob­served abused kids, which is how many ar­rive into fos­ter care. Neigh­bor chil­dren looked ill-treated, the Cape mom says, bruised and thin. State so­cial work­ers later re­moved them. It was her in­tro­duc­tion to the sys­tem run by the Florida Depart­ment of Chil­dren and Fam­i­lies, the re­moved chil­dren re­quest­ing Fis­cher as a cus­to­dial par­ent, she says, which the state granted. She has since started Fos­ter Genies, a non­profit so­lic­it­ing fos­ter par­ents. The pro­gram also grants wishes such as trips to Dis­ney World, for in­stance. She just added the Lit­tle Ge­nie pro­gram that matches sta­ble chil­dren to fos­ter as­sis­tance, says Fis­cher, a mom with three kids and half a dozen fos­ter chil­dren, a mod­ern Brady Bunch. “My goal is to ed­u­cate [peo­ple] about the state of emer­gency we’re in,” she says. “I have lis­tened to sto­ries [of abused kids] and gone to my room to cry. I want to give the sup­port they need.”

De­tails are at fos­ter­ge­nies.org.

Con­fetti rained on those cel­e­brat­ing the fund­ing achieve­ment. Golisano Chil­dren's Hospi­tal opens in April.

Lee County's fos­ter sys­tem is in cri­sis and needs qual­i­fy­ing adults to step for­ward. Kids from sta­ble homes are also asked to help.

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