MIAMI SHORES, Fla. – Barry University was able to help grant the wish of a local child battling a life-threatening medical condition in a special Make-A-Wish® reveal event Saturday at its homecoming basketball games.
Barry’s efforts raising funds and hosting this celebration helped Make-A-Wish send Gustavo, a Miami-area kid, to visit one of Silicon Valley’s leading technological companies.
"The entire university, actually for the first time, really got behind everything that was going on," Barry Dean of Human Performance and Leisure Sciences Darlene Kluka said. "You can't ask for anything more than that."
Barry funded Gustavo’s wish, announcing that his wish would be granted before the men’s basketball game at Health & Sports Center on Homecoming Weekend. The NCAA selected Barry as one of five schools across the country to hold the Make-A-Wish reveal on site.
Gustavo was also invited to sit in with the men’s basketball team in its pre-game scouting report and during a locker room pep talk before the Buccaneers took the floor. During the wish reveal near center court, Barry head coach Butch Estes presented Gustavo with a Buccaneers jersey, which he later had signed by the players.
"It touched my heart," Barry University President Sister Linda Bevilacqua said. "I think it had to touch everyone who was in the gymnasium."
Barry received an award as one of the top three NCAA Division II schools in the nation for its fundraising efforts to support Make-A-Wish. Last year, the Buccaneers athletic department was able to raise more than $10,000 to help grant two local kids’ wishes. This year, the school has increased its goal to $15,000 to help fund three wishes.
"Basically, I wasn't really expecting this kind of welcome from you guys," Gustavo's father, Gustavo Sr., said. "We were impressed with the way Barry University put this together. I didn't see it coming. I think it was an amazing job, and we're very, very pleased and appreciative of what you guys have done. I'm very grateful for how you guys put this together, the athletic team, how you made this happen.
"Barry University and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, they worked very, very hard. They do an incredible job, and they really do it from the heart. Seeing the faces of these kids, it's extremely gratifying."
Barry generated over $5,587 through the weekend’s Homecoming games to support this year’s Make-A-Wish fundraising efforts. All of the gate and concession proceeds from this weekend’s athletic events were donated to Make-A-Wish.
"Our student-athletes have been phenomenal in their efforts to raise money to make wishes come true," Bevilacqua said. "Not only are they excelling in the classroom in their studies, but they're also, as members of the Sunshine State Conference, contributing to the goals of NCAA Division II. The energy that they put into raising money each year to make wishes come true with the partnership of the Make-A-Wish Foundation ... we're very proud of them, and what they have achieved."
A silent auction, yard sale and other activities were also set up on campus, in addition to on-line donations, which has generated $1,785 so far to support the Make-A-Wish cause. Over the past five years, Barry has been one of the nation’s leading NCAA Division II fundraising institutions. Barry has also been the top fundraiser in the Sunshine State Conference.
"It's a privilege to be a student-athlete at Barry University," men's soccer player Connor Randel said. "One of the pillars of the Barry University mission statement is community service, and as a student-athlete we're able to commit that through Make-A-Wish Foundation.
NCAA Division II has supported Make-A-Wish for more than 10 years, raising funds to help grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.
"It was both special, it was memorable," Bevilacqua said, "and it was very touching to be apart of this celebration."
To donate to Make-A-Wish, click HERE.