The Rotary Club of Wellington is always looking for new ways to support the local community, and this year the organization held a special raffle to raise money for its Kevlar for K9s initiative. The winner of a raffle prize worth more than $18,000 was drawn during a special dinner held at the Wanderers Club on Thursday, May 16.
The evening also featured the club’s annual scholarship presentations.
PBSO Deputy Dwayne Brown, a fellow Rotarian, led the room’s invocation and a moment of silence for officers lost while in the line of the duty. Afterward he spoke about the importance of the Rotary’s support, particularly through Kevlar for K9s, which raised money to buy bulletproof vests for four-legged K9 officers.
The idea took root after the fatal shooting of K9 Cigo on Christmas Eve right here in Wellington.
“K9 Cigo did save the life of his partner and handler,” Brown said. “We have 25 K9 officers. The vests for our K9 officers can run anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 each. Thank you for the outreach. Thank you for helping our brave four-legged friends that protect us all.”
Rotarian Mickey Smith led the committee for the raffle fundraiser, and he was tasked with multiple ticket sale goals in recent months. In total, 561 raffle tickets were sold, meaning more than $56,000 was raised — with $37,400 earmarked for charity.
“Why did we take on this project? It really speaks to what Rotary is about: Service Above Self. What could be better than to take on a project to honor a four-legged officer, who literally gave his life in service of the community,” Smith said. “It’s very appropriate that we are doing the raffle tonight, during this week, because this is National Police Week, where we honor our law enforcement. People in this community are really good-hearted, and people in this community support law enforcement.”
Wellington Vice Mayor Michael Napoleone then called up scholarship winner O’Mari Burgess to pull the winning ticket out of the box. The future Florida Atlantic University student, who received a $4,000 scholarship earlier in the evening, pulled Noel Guillama’s name as the raffle winner.
“I’m very honored,” said Guillama, who was present at the dinner. “I am very happy for this club and to be able to play a minor role.”
Guillama later announced that he chose to donate $4,000 of his winnings back into the pot of money raised for charity.
Other presentations during the dinner included three scholarship award winners, the Rotary’s Student of the Quarter and the winner of a special poster contest.
The first scholarship went to Palm Beach Central High School senior Sebastian Suarez. The young man is a member of several honor societies and holds top grades, but his more than 400 hours of community service stood out.
“Grades that are received during high school are important, but the differentiator is community service. So, that’s what makes Rotary special, and what makes the recipients special,” Rotarian Donald Gross said. “It is the desire to help others.”
Maria Ceballos, ranked 12th overall in her class of more than 750 students at Palm Beach Central High School, received a $4,000 scholarship. Both Ceballos and Suarez plan to attend the University of Florida.
Burgess, a Wellington High School athlete and student mentor, also received a scholarship for his outstanding achievements. He found a way to contribute more than 300 hours of community service outside of sports.
Student of the Quarter was presented to Wellington High School freshman Sydney Showalter for her exceptional GPA, involvement in community activities and sports.
Rotary Club President Tom Carreras also introduced Alena Diaz, the winner of the recent countywide alcohol prevention poster contest sponsored in honor of his late wife.
To learn more about Wellington Rotary programs and events, visit www.wellingtonrotary.org.