The Dr. Phillips community is full of people who volunteer their time to help others. Schools, houses of worships, youth sports leagues and residents in need depend on them. The Dr. Phillips residents profiled in this article are a few of the thousands of volunteers who make significant contributions to the community every day.
Coaching Kids to Success
Mike Marchell embodies the spirit of volunteerism for the Dr. Phillips Little League. He recently retired after 25 years as a coach, umpire, board member and league president. Marchell enjoyed on-field success as the coach for the first Dr. Phillips 11 to 12 year-old team to win a district championship. But when you ask him about his favorite memories, he doesn’t discuss championships or wins. He talks about his players.
“I had a 12-year-old named Anthony on my majors team one year who needed artificial legs,” Marchell says. “He tried so hard but had trouble hitting. I worked with him every day. He kept practicing and in the last game of our fall season cracked a home run. Both teams’ fans were teary. When Anthony finished hobbling around the bases he came straight for me and hugged me.”
Marchell got teary eyed again relating the story. Although he spent countless hours over 25 years to make sure kids had the chance to play baseball, Marchell says, “It’s not about winning. I got more from the kids than they got from me.”
Leading Local Organizations
Rhonda Fair didn’t know anyone when she moved to Orlando from Philadelphia four years ago. She joined the Rosen Jewish Community Center (JCC) on Apopka-Vineland Road and now feels like she knows everyone. Fair soon found herself doing everything from greeting new members to leading major fundraisers. She says hands-on, personal connections are the best way to attract and retain members. Fair spends five or six hours each day at the JCC campus or in the community forming new partnerships. She was named JCC Volunteer of the Year in 2014 and says, “I would never go back to Philly.”
Fair joined the JCC board of directors in June when the Rosen JCC formally split from the JCC in Maitland. Jeff Imber, another long time JCC member and volunteer, became board president. Imber is a Florida native and a graduate of Florida State University who moved to Dr. Phillips a few years ago. He is leading the JCC’s expansion efforts.
Imber says volunteering for worthy causes has been a regular part of his life since high school. He joined the JCC when he moved to Orlando and spent a great deal of time volunteering before he formally joined the advisory committee. Imber is leading a capital campaign to fund four additional early childhood classrooms and a resource center, an auditorium and music practice rooms. The new spaces will service the expanding membership and Dr. Phillips population.
“You don’t need to be Jewish to join the JCC,” Imber says. Everyone is welcome to use the facilities. “We get several kids from the mosque across the street to play basketball,” he says. The grand opening of the expanded JCC is scheduled for February or March of 2016.
Supporting Young Cancer Patients
Some of the area’s most impactful volunteers create their own organizations. During the fall of his senior year at Dr. Phillips High School (DPHS), Matteo Mayorga’s best friend, DPHS water polo captain Ian Supra, was diagnosed with Stage 4 esophageal cancer. He says, “I kept thinking about what I can do to help.”
He had not volunteered much in his young life up until the point when Supra collapsed in his arms after telling Mayorga the news. That night Mayorga designed a wristband that he sold to raise money for Supra’s medical expenses. “On the Monday after I found out, my friends and I visited every class in Dr. Phillips High School to tell them about Ian. We sold 1,000 wristbands in three days,” Mayorga says.
Mayorga and Athena Staton, the mother of one of Supra’s friends, formed Supra Strong to support Supra and his family in their battle against cancer. Staton created a fundraising site and organized several fundraising events, including a concert hosted by *NSYNC’s Chris Kikrpatrick. They raised over $90,000 for the family. The Supra Strong group not only provided much-needed money but also emotional support. When Supra started aggressive chemotherapy and lost his hair, 60 DPHS students shaved theirs.
Mayorga, Staton, and Supra Strong have also helped other Central Florida young people with cancer. Mayorga and Supra heard about 5-year-old Ryan Snow, a young boy in the pediatric cancer ward at Arnold Palmer Hospital. Mayorga designed a “Ryder the Fighter” wristband to raise money for Ryder’s family. They donated portions from Supra’s fundraisers to help Ryder and other kids with cancer. But the group gave more than money; Supra and Mayorga reached out to Ryder personally to give him hope for the future.
Mayorga, now a 19-year-old journalism major at Valencia College, keeps volunteering to help others. He and Supra recently met with a Lake Brantley High School student and water polo player who was just diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. Mayorga knows there is a great need for the support that Supra Strong offers, and he plans to continue volunteering for the rest of his life. “I can’t cure cancer,” he says, “but I can help kids fight cancer with support.”