By: Jen Russon
A 100 percent volunteer-run foundation, shining a spotlight on cancer as well as finding ways to support children and families fighting it, organized an event at the Kilwins of Coral Springs starring Santa and his sidekick, Mrs. Claus.
The Kids of Love Foundation, a nonprofit headed up by Ray and Kim Slapikas, worked with volunteers to deliver not only ice cream treats but gifts and face-time with Santa.
The Monday night event was sponsored by the Tamarac headquarters of PuroClean. Workers from the company helped ensure a safe and socially-distanced environment as nearly 50 people gathered to enjoy the night.
Only two children at a time were allowed to enter Kilwins with their ice cream tickets before heading out to a gift-giving area, where Ray, dressed as Santa Claus, wore a mask and listened to the children’s wish-lists at a safe distance.
At the center of it all, a 22-pound milk-chocolate Santa stood in the Kilwins store, waiting to be auctioned off with proceeds to Kids of Love.
Run entirely with volunteers’ help, Kids of Love has raised cancer awareness since 2010, when the Slapikas’s son, Randall, ran his first relay race for charity in grade school.
Randall, now 21, is a U.S. Marine stationed in Japan; however, his parents have kept up the good work all over Broward County during the holiday season.
Earlier this month, the Slapikas raised over $9,000 for their foundation, thanks to the Hollywood Lions Club’s generosity. Because of donations and their volunteers’ advocacy, the Kids of Love Foundation can ease the financial burden, and emotional toll childhood cancer takes on families.
“I’ve been a volunteer for many years now,” said Lucy Martinez of Tamarac, “it’s so great to make a real human connection with these children and their families. I actually feel like I’m making a difference,” she said.
One such family, Beth-Ann Fraser-Boegle, and her son Tommy said the Kids of Love had made a very positive difference in their lives. A cancer patient since the age of four, Tommy recently marked his ninth birthday.
“We just got back from Sloan-Kettering in New York where Tommy has been receiving cancer treatment since June. His scans are now clear,” said Fraser-Boegle.
She added how excited Tommy was to come out and do something safe, but social, during the pandemic.
Mother and son enjoyed their ice cream out by the sign-in tables at the Kilwins promenade dining area at The Walk.
Pre-registered families reported to volunteers like Abby Frank, a junior at Coral Springs High School.
“I started volunteering for Kids of Love events in the second grade,” she said. “My two older brothers were involved, so my mom let me tag along.”
Frank was joined at the table by another volunteer, retired teacher, Barbara Pedowitz.
“Kim and Ray work endlessly hard. I admire their dedication so much,” said Pedowitz about the Slapikas family.
The Slapikas have lived in the Woodside Estates community of Coral Springs for decades and have six grown children. Last night, however, they were surrounded by others.
Five-year-old Isabella Nicosia was one of them. Dressed up as Mrs. Claus, she helped distribute gifts. Her dad, Brian, said they got involved with the Kids of Love Foundation because his wife had been diagnosed with cancer as a child, and the cause speaks to them.
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- Jen Russon is a freelance writer and English Language Arts teacher. She has published two novels to Amazon Kindle and lives in Coral Springs with her family.
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