In the last week and a half, the Lightning have recognized three more Community Heroes. The recipients received a $50,000 donation for their chosen charity or charities. Here’s a look at these extraordinary individuals.
Heroes: Gus and Frances Stavros. Charity: Pinellas Education Foundation. Gus and Frances Stavros created the Pinellas Education Foundation, a wide-reaching, multi-faceted organization. Its mission statement: “To enhance and improve educational opportunities in Pinellas County Schools.” Its vision: “That every student will be prepared for life after high school, whether the choice is to attend college, to enter the workforce, or to obtain technical training.”
The Foundation works towards those statements with a number of programs, including Enterprise Village, a student-learning experience for fifth-graders about free enterprise. It’s a six-week curriculum in which students are taught the basics of economics. It ends with a full-day event at Enterprise Village, where the students manage and work in private and public-sector businesses.
There are others. Every eighth grader in Pinellas County public schools participates in Finance Park, which teaches them about managing personal finance. The Doorways Scholarship Program provides low-income students with the opportunity to work towards a college education. The Teach For Excellence program gives grants to deserving classrooms. Frances Stavros started the SAVE scholarship program, which helps drop-out students get back to school to learn a trade.
In all, Gus and Frances have awarded more than $18 million to educational causes and fundraised an additional $20 million. They are heroes to the cause of education – and students.
Hero: Ed Ross. Charity: Community Stepping Stones. Here is another hero to the young people in our community. Community Stepping Stones is and arts education center, aimed at changing the lives of the youth in Sulphur Springs. It’s a facility where at-risk teens can be mentored and inspired through an art curriculum.
Ed is an adjunct professor at USF, but takes virtually no salary for his work at Community Stepping Stones. His Community Art Class students at USF come to Community Stepping Stones to act as instructors and role models.
Ed created CSS nine years ago because he saw a need to get kids off the street and away from a potential dead-end path. The Community Stepping Stones center was formerly an abandoned crack house. Now, it’s a site giving the youth in Sulphur Springs another option in terms of how to spend their time. One such student recently graduated from Hillsborough Community College and is now an assistant with Community Stepping Stones. Thanks to Ed Ross, she is now ‘paying it forward’, acting as a mentor to the younger members of that community.
Hero: Dr. Edie Dopking. Charity: Quantum Leap Farms. Dr. Edie Dopking is the founder of Quantum Leap Farms, a facility serving civilians and veterans with mental and physical disabilities.
Based on the few times I’ve been on a horse, I’ve always enjoyed riding. But I had no idea that the activity of riding a horse can be therapeutic. Founded in 2000, Quantum Leap Farms utilizes recreational horseback riding and carriage riding to help clients recover from their health issues. The participants suffer from a wide range of disabilities, including autism, pediatric cancer, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis and others. Dr. Dopking leads therapeutic sessions, manages daily operations, guides more than 500 volunteers and hosts events benefitting Quantum Leap Farms. Last year, Quantum Leap Farms exceeded over 800 wellness experiences and relationships. Her intent is to allow patients to attend the center regardless of their ability to pay.
Dr. Dopking deserves recognition not only for her ingenuity in creating such a wonderful facility, but also her dedication and selflessness. In 1996, she sold her business, one of the first open-air MRI units, to establish QLF. With her background, education and experience, she could have easily chosen another path for herself, whether still in the business world or in academia. Instead, she’s devoted her time and passion to Quantum Leap Farms, where she regularly put in 14-hour days. As detailed in her nomination form, ‘When asked to envision her dream life, she replies, “What I am doing now.”’
Congratulations to all of these heroes. There will be more to come in the next few weeks. If you know of any deserving individuals, please don’t hesitate to nominate them! The next cut-off date is Thursday, November 15. For more information, log on to www.tampabaylightning.com/heroes.
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