The Guardian ad Litem Foundation, 20th Judicial Circuit, raised $85,766 at its second annual Voices of Hope Gala to support programs benefiting children in the foster care system. The foundation also presented philanthropist Jerry Galeana with its prestigious HOPE Award.

Held March 3, the gala was a virtual event livestreamed into supporters’ homes and watch parties. The program featured impactful stories from Guardian ad Litem’s volunteer child advocates, who represent Southwest Florida children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned. The event, which was broadcast from The Club at Pelican Bay in Naples, also featured live and silent auctions, as well as awards presentations and Fund-a-Cause initiative.

“Our theme this year was ‘Change a Child’s Story,’ and that’s exactly what our supporters and sponsors accomplished at the Voices of Hope Gala,” said Jessica Stanfield, executive director of the Guardian ad Litem Foundation. “The children we represent don’t always start with fairytale lives, but if we rally the community to support children, we can write a happy ending for their story.”

Proceeds from the gala help the foundation recruit, train and support volunteer child advocates who represent children as they navigate the judicial, education and child welfare systems. Funds also support two critically important programs:

  • Children’s Needs Program: helps meet a child’s basic and developmental needs as well as provide “extras” like birthday parties, tutoring, summer camp programs, movie tickets, and registration fees for clubs and sports.
  • Beds for Kids: provides new mattresses, bed frames, linens, blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, dressers, lamps and end tables so children can feel comfortable in their new living arrangement.

Galeana received the foundation’s HOPE Award, which is short for Helping Other People Excel. The award honors individuals with deep connections to the Guardian ad Litem program in Southwest Florida. Galeana, president of the Elizabeth K. Galeana Charitable Foundation, first linked with the Guardian ad Litem Foundation in 2013. Since then, ongoing financial support has allowed 133 children to sleep comfortably in a new crib or bed; 373 children to participate in dance classes, music lessons and sports activates; 288 children to attend summer camps and field trips; 404 children to receive new clothing; 76 children to access academic tutoring; and 803 children to celebrate a happier birthday.

“Jerry has directly touched the lives of more than 2,000 children,” Stanfield said. “These are children she has never met, but felt compelled to help because she believes in the Guardian ad Litem Foundation’s mission and recognizes that all children deserve our community’s support.”

The Guardian ad Litem Foundation also presented Corey Lazar, an anchor at WINK News, with an award recognizing him as an honorary board member for his work telling the stories of vulnerable children in Southwest Florida. Lazar has emceed foundation events and participated in the nonprofit’s recent 5K race in Fort Myers.

Sponsors for the Voices of Hope Gala included PNC Bank; Melissa Grege Schiffman and David Long; Ronto Group; Guardian ad Litem Foundation’s Board of Directors; Lee County Sheriff’s Office; Mediation Services of SW Florida; Henderson Franklin; RSM; Sanibel Captiva Community Bank; Collier County Bar Foundation; USI; Gulf Shore Cooling; Becker; Priority Marketing; Girl Tales; and WINK News.

About Guardian ad Litem Foundation

The Guardian ad Litem Foundation, 20th Judicial Circuit, was established in 1984 and is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports Guardian ad Litem programs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation, a United Way Partner Agency, has a mission of ensuring that every abused, neglected or abandoned youth in Southwest Florida has a voice as they navigate the judicial, education and child welfare system. The Foundation raises funds that help meet a child’s health, educational and social needs, as well as provides support for highly trained volunteer advocates who represent the best interests of a child until a safe, permanent placement is established. For additional information, visit VoicesForKids.org or call 239-533-1435.