We can all use some good news these days so here’s a small dose we call Paying it forward to San Juan Bosco
It’s the dawn of a new day. Everything has changed–– and it seems it happened in a matter of days. In early March (before the quarantine and before the Covid-19 epidemic), social media stories included examples of Paying it forward (#payingitforward), heck there was even a National Holiday for #RandomActsofkindness. This group came together over a year ago and showed us how to walk-the-talk right here in Little Havana at our very own San Juan Bosco.
It all started with Mrs. Sylvia Cuesta-Galvez who leads the Christopher Columbus Highschool Mas Scholars, a group of exemplary students who volunteer around the community including at San Juan Bosco Leadership Learning Center in Little Havana. As many of you know, San Juan Bosco is a long-standing pillar of the Little Havana immigrant community, supporting children and families since 1962 so the idea of paying it forward to them was easy.
“After years of working with San Juan Bosco, it was shocking to see that the ONLY play area for the kids was in such disarray (and not to mention completely unsafe),” said Mrs. Galvez- Cuesta.
The Leadership Learning Center provides free after-school tutoring, physical activities and mentoring to K-12 children in the area. Many go on to graduate and attend college thanks to this amazing program lead by Director Susy del Riego. So of course when Mrs. Cuesta-Galvez saw the condition of the court, she enlisted the help of some of her Mas Scholar students including Jorge de la Osa, and her contractor husband Alex Galvez of A.Galvez Construction to please help create a safe space in San Juan Bosco for these kids.
“I saw the project of renovating the basketball court as a priority since the day I first set foot at Leadership Learning Center. As our only outdoor space, I found it to be an unsafe place for our kids to participate in sports and fitness,” commented Susy del Riego.
One year later and thanks to a tiny village of locals, the kids finally are able to celebrate and enjoy the opening of this new rec. area. Harriett Stein from the Key Biscayne Women’s Giving Circle were the first to step up financially with paying it forward. The beautiful turf and leveling of the play area in San Juan Bosco were generously provided by Tony Varona of Synthetic Lawns of Miami. Joe Yanes of Utility Masters helped with the hard labor, concrete stairs and the railings. Another Galvez family member and local activist Denise Galvez Turros enlisted the help of the public sector with County Commissioner Eileen Higgins’ and City Commissioner Manolo Reyes’ offices both pitching in with the San Juan Bosco renovation. Finally, the last piece came together like a Christmas Miracle thanks to the 80-member family of the late Jorge Cadi. The Cadi family decided to forego their family gift exchange last December, and instead donated the privacy fence that will now keep the children safe.
“At first it was tough to convince the younger children, but once they saw the site for themselves and the tremendous gift they would be giving these children…everyone was on board,” said Ms. Raquel Llobera-Bunce – granddaughter of Jorge and Rosa Cadi. Adding “my father was very fond of San Juan Bosco and it was really important for us to do something in his name.”
From everyone at Calle Ocho News, the children of San Juan Bosco Catholic Church, the Leadership Learning Center AND the entire Little Havana community, we say THANK YOU and let’s all continue to follow in this group’s example…please continue to share good news, share positive vibes and Paying it forward (#PayItForward), as we work through these hard times.