When a member of the military, law-enforcement or fire rescue services is injured or dies, there’s an outpouring of sympathy and concern, with folks often lining up to help.
Once the dust settles, however, and the family adjusts to the new normal, decisions must be made about how to go forward. One of the first things that gets cut, according veteran Bobby Simeone, is recreation activities for kids. Simeone, the founder, president, CEO and chair of Children of Wounded Warriors, wants to reduce the number of kids who are forced to give up their extra curricular activity, such as baseball, piano lessons, dance or football, because of the cost.
A Desert Storm veteran, Simeone served six years in the military — four active, two in the reserve — and has worked for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office for the past 10 years. He started the organization in 2011 because he wanted to help the children of wounded warriors. The group got official recognition as a charity in 2012.
He said the small organization is unique in that it serves healthy children.
Simeone said the group tries to give about $250 to $500 a year to each child. Last year it gave six grants and currently there six pending applications. He expects that number to grow as word spreads about the organization. He’s proud of the fact that no child has ever been turned down and if the organization can’t underwrite the full amount of the cost for the child’s activity the board tries to give at least a part.
Children of Wounded Warriors has evolved into a national organization, Simeone said, because donations come from all over the country as do the applicants. “We have applicants from as far away as Washington state and Hawaii,” he said.
Why the focus on recreation activities? “We believe that being engaged in extracurricular activities is good for the mind, spirit and soul and helps through adulthood.”
On Saturday, about 2,000 people turned out to support the Children of Wounded Warriors at the third annual Cake Off at the Wellington amphitheater. Simeone said the Cake Off, which pits professional cake artists against each other, was conceived as a “fun fundraiser,” said Simeone.
In addition to the cake competition, a Huey helicopter and a firetruck were on display. There also were SWAT teams, the National Guard, honor guards and PBSO canine demonstrations.
Simeone said Tuesday the tally had reached almost $7,000, which would make it the biggest fundraiser to date. Of that achievement Simeone said, “I am humbled and overjoyed with the amount of supporters and volunteers that continue to grow in support of this foundation. I feel … honored to have been able to start such an important foundation and I will continue to work hard on raising awareness and funds so we can award grants to all that apply.”
During the Cake Off “we presented a $250 check to Linda Anderson and family for their daughter (Miranda) to continue her extracurricular activities.” Her husband, PBSO Corp. John Anderson, was diagnosed with ALS, Simeone said.
Bianca Steinberg, the wife of West Palm Beach Police Officer Matt Steinberg, has volunteered with Children of Wounded Warriors for the past two years. She was motivated to help, she said, because “it’s a great organization where Bob is really good at giving back and recognizing families in need. I felt that as a member of a police officer’s family we should give back.”
Steinberg, who has two children, said “being a wife of a police officer we know firsthand when they’re wounded especially in the line of duty it affects the entire household. A normal family can only afford so much a month.” So, she said, it’s important if you can keep that normalcy of recreational activities in children’s life so that they’re not as affected by the life change — whether for three months or three years.
By Carol Rose
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
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