DARE DEVILS: Singer Nicole Henry, left, will join Miami Children’s Initiative CEO Cecilia Gutierrez, for the program’s fourth annual ‘Over the Edge’ fundraiser in June.
Patterned after the successful Harlem Children’s Zone in New York, The Miami Children’s Initiative shares a similar mission: to see every child in Liberty City go to college.
Cecilia Gutierrez is the Chief Executive Officer of MCI. When she began four years ago, she asked herself one question: “If the doors closed tomorrow, would anyone in Liberty City care? And four years ago the answer would have been categorically no,” Gutierrez said.
One strategy to help the Liberty City non- profit keep its doors open is its annual Over the Edge fundraiser.
“We’ve been doing it since 2012. We wanted something that is representative of the work we’re doing in Liberty City. We wanted people to get out of their comfort zones to raise money,” she explained about the event that challenges supporters to rappel 19 stories (200 feet!) down the JW Marriott Marquis Miami. Rapellers must be at least 16 and are required to raise $1,000 in order to participate. The goal for this year is to double its previous $100,000 proceeds to $200,000.
“In the past we’ve had Sen. Dwight Bullard, Commissioner Keon Hardemon, the superintendent rapelled twice,” said Gutierrez.
Local songbird, Nicole Henry, is taking the leap again this year. “This will be my fourth time doing it and I’m very excited,” said Henry during a telephone interview from Pennsylvania, where she was scheduled to perform.
“The first time is always the hardest, being a daredevil; I love adventure,” she said. “More than that I really love the work that the Miami Children’s Initiative is doing for our children.
That work includes a block by block approach to reaching the 16,000 children who reside in Liberty City. So far, the approach has been instrumental in the agency establishing a deep connection to 500 children and their families so that four years after Gutierrez took over, the possibility of the agency closing its doors would have a different response.
“The relationships are significant,” Gutierrez explained. “They’re not clients or people that we serve, they’re our family. And we invest in the entire family,” she said.
She acknowledges that building trust and getting people to hope again is a gradual process.
“We’re on eight blocks in Liberty City. People felt that we were deeply investing in them and their children. We walk the streets every day. We really believe in our families. We believe that it’s possible for our kids to be very successful.” Henry said she’s a huge fan of the program.
“These children are getting some great services provided to them, opportunities to discuss issues, art classes, gym classes, good food,” For the event, Henry has already convinced five friends to join her. “My goal is to get 10 friends to join me. Five have committed, I need five more to raise the $1000 per person,” she added. “It’s exciting to bring people in to share a vision with you.”
As part of the event, MCI will hold its notorious “Wed Over The Edge” contest again this year. The winning couple will exchange vows atop the hotel and then rappel down to their families and friends. The prize package includes a wedding cake, champagne, and honeymoon night’s stay at the JW Marriott Marquis, courtesy of the hotel.
“The tremendous success of this annual fundraiser is a clear message that the Miami community cares about making Liberty City a better place for its children and families,” said Gutierrez. “We go “Over the Edge” because we are determined that the future of Liberty City’s children will not be defined by their zip code and because we believe that the children and families of Liberty City must have access to the best educational opportunities possible,” she said. .
“We are excited to once again support Miami Children’s Initiative in bringing this impactful event to South Florida,” said Paul Pebley, director of sales and marketing at the JW Marriott Marquis Miami. “As part of our commitment to our community, we are proud to partner with Miami Children’s Initiative in improving Liberty City for the benefit of all.”
For more information, visit www.mi- amichildrensinitiative.org or call 305514-6120.