FORT LAUDERDALE — Suzanne Driscoll marveled at the crowd at Helping Abused Disadvantaged Neglected Youth’s (HANDY) ninth annual Scholars Breakfast.

More than 600 guests attended HANDY’s breakfast that raised $100,000 for HANDY’s scholarship program and honored its longtime supporters and 2014 scholarship recipients.

“We are so pleased that this has grown into such a big event,” said event chair Driscoll, a HANDY board member and partner in the Fort Lauderdale office of the law firm Shutts & Bowen LLP, the presenting sponsor. “This is probably double what we did last year, and we may need a bigger venue next year. This will help HANDY serve more deserving kids. It’s hard to believe that at our first breakfast nine years ago, we had 40 people.”

HANDY aids at-risk children and youth – from birth to 23 years old – with educational opportunities and chances to socialize in the community.

At the breakfast at the Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty–Six, 12 students were awarded the HANDY Book Scholarship of up to $1,500 per year. HANDY currently supports 119 scholars who attend 17 Florida and four out-of-state colleges and universities. Since 1996, HANDY’s Scholars Committee has awarded funding to nearly 600 college-bound students. 

“The basic needs of a child and young adult may be food, clothing, education, healthcare and support. Unfortunately, many children do not receive these fundamentals due to poverty, homelessness, teen pregnancy and unemployment,” said Beth Bryant, HANDY director of development.

For more than 27 years, HANDY has “met the needs” of more than 50,000 Broward County children, Bryant said.

Another way HANDY provides young people with educational experiences is through its Future Prep Program. In conjunction with members of the Florida Legislature, every year two students participate in the Florida Legislature’s House Page and Messenger Program at the Capitol in Tallahassee. Lakedria Moultry, 18, and Jennaie Petit-Frere, 14, were this year’s participants.

“I’ll always be grateful for this experience,” said Lakedria, who plans to attend Florida State University or Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. “Before this week, I never knew that government impacts all facets of our lives. I’d like to thank HANDY for helping expand my horizons.”

During a one-week stay, students witness the legislative process in action. They work with lawmakers, lobbyists, staff and constituents during committee meetings, House of Representatives sessions and press conferences. The program provides a fun and educational experience that includes a tour of the Governor’s Mansion, the Florida Supreme Court, the Museum of Florida History and the Historic Capitol.

HANDY also works to promote team-building and leadership skills among its students through its annual Field Day. Broward county middle and high school students gather for a fun and competitive hands-on activity by taking part in games, races and educational activities throughout the day. This year 45 students participated along with 52 volunteers.

“HANDY has made a tremendous contribution to the community over the years by encouraging kids to overcome obstacles to become committed, productive adults,” said Chad Moss, a HANDY board member and senior vice president of Moss & Associates. “Every day HANDY is improving the lives of young people and our community as a whole.”