Florida’s American Legion Auxiliary Hosts Successful Fundraiser for the Debbie School

Thanks to a generous gift from the world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization, children at the Debbie School at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Mailman Center for Child Development will soon have additional resources to help them embrace their creative and learning skills.
The American Legion Auxiliary Department of Florida donated several large baskets loaded with school and art supplies on June 13, in addition to a check for more than $6,300.

“We are all so thrilled with the generous donation that will be used for therapy services and equipment, as well as the gorgeous baskets filled with school supplies,” said Kathleen Vergara, M.A., director of the Debbie Institute, which serves children with special needs. “These gifts will help children with disabilities maximize their educational potential through the intensive, early-intervention services offered at the Debbie School.”

The supplies were courtesy of the members of nearly 400 American Legion Auxiliary posts in Florida. In past years, the non-profit group has donated a total of $73,000 to the Miller School’s Department of Pediatrics.

Denice Grinis, a liaison from the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Florida, said the new campaign came about after a recent visit by Ann King-Smith, the organization’s third vice president.

“She took a tour of the Debbie School and just fell in love with the children and the work being done here,” said Grinis, past-president of the American Legion Auxiliary’s ninth district. “So we got a list of the supplies they needed.”

The Auxiliary’s mission is to support the American Legion and to honor the sacrifice of those who serve by enhancing the lives of veterans, military, and their families, both at home and abroad. The fundraiser for the Debbie School is part of its ongoing children and youth programs.

Denice was accompanied by her husband, Jamie Grinis, a retired battalion chief with the Broward Sheriff’s Office Fire Service. He served briefly in the United States Coast Guard and is a member of the American Legion.

“I am very pleased to be taking a tour today,” said Jamie Grinis, who is also chair of the American Legion’s Special Olympics program. “I’ll be able to share with the other posts what the Debbie School is all about.”

The Debbie Institute is a center for early intervention research, training, and service. For more than 30 years, the Institute has conducted research on children with special needs, provided early intervention services for children and their families, and provided training for students interested in careers in special education, speech-language pathology, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.

The educational services of the Institute are delivered through the Debbie School, which offers programs including the Auditory/Oral Education Program that serves children who are deaf and hard of hearing from birth through eight years of age, and the B-2 Early Education Program, which serves children with varying exceptionalities from birth through three years old.

Teachers say the donated supplies will be divided among the school’s 12 classrooms.

“We are so excited to use the materials that we got today,” said Lynn Miskiel, M.A., director of the Auditory/Oral Education Program at the Debbie School. “The children can use them for their academics, and the younger children can use them for learning activities and practicing their fine motor skills.”

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