There are many nonprofit organizations in Bradenton and the surrounding area. Each one is doing incredible work to support our community by helping those less fortunate, promoting the arts, providing education, and more.
During our nonprofit spotlight series, we’ll highlight information about a different local nonprofit each week.
The Mark Wandall Foundation is a Manatee County-based non-profit with arms that stretch State-wide. We connect grieving children and young adults who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, or guardian with the services and support they need to lead a healthy, optimistic life. We do this several ways, all at no cost to our families.
We recognize death often accompanies isolation with additional financial and emotional burdens. We aim to alleviate stress and sadness, uplifting our youth via positive reinforcement while role modeling healthy relationships. We boost self-esteem via structured activities and projects, and we come together to remind our youth that no one grieves alone. Together, we will light the way to a happy, healthy, and optimistic future.
Our non-profit was formed after Mark J. Wandall tragically lost his life due to the carelessness of a red-light runner. His daughter, Madisyn Grace, was born two weeks after his untimely death. We exist to continue supporting children in his name and offer several life-changing programs for the children we serve.
The largest, most comprehensive program we offer is our partnership program with Comfort Zone Camp, which services up to 75 youth each year at a free, 3-day bereavement camp in the state of Florida. We accept children and teens ages 7-17 and young adults ages 18-25. Our camp is a safe and fun environment that occurs at a rustic camp facility where campers connect with their peers and learn coping skills through age-appropriate activities and discussions.
Campers are matched one-on-one with a Big Buddy adult mentor who provides encouragement and support throughout the weekend. Youth meet in age-based support groups called Healing Circles, which are facilitated by a mental health professional, where they can share and reflect on their grief experience.
By the end of the weekend, campers leave the “bubble” with a new community of friends, a sense of connection, and coping skills for their grief journey. It is an amazing experience, and we are hosting our next camp, April 8-10, 2022. Our camp partnership is our largest expense, and each year, we have a waitlist of children hoping to attend. We would love to host 2 camps per year, however, at an operating expense of $70,000 per camp, we have not been able to raise enough money or find a singular grant to fund this to date.
Equine-Assisted Therapy Program
Because we recognize the restorative and healing power of nature, we also offer an equine-assisted therapy program in partnership with Prospect Riding Center, Our monthly program occurs on Prospect’s tranquil ranch and focuses on fostering self-confidence, leadership, and team-building skills. This program provides a nurturing and safe environment to support our youth with their physical, emotional, and social growth. Each month, the equine program fills to capacity within hours of opening registration, again ending with a waitlist.
Donor-Funded Scholarship Program
Death often brings a financial burden, and we have implemented a donor-funded Scholarship Program to encourage and uplift our graduating seniors. Our scholarship program helps young people reach their post-secondary educational dreams (including technical college). This year we have $10,000.00 to award, and we are currently accepting applications from throughout the State of Florida.
Lastly, we reconnect our youth throughout the year, outside of our structured programming, by providing quarterly reconnects, which are fun events held at a park or venue with food, games, or activities, or all three! We want our families to come together to further develop and strengthen their friendships while solidifying the mantra that no child will grieve alone.
What’s the best way our community can help?
We would love for anyone who is interested to visit our website where you can learn more and also make a donation. The Board of Directors, our volunteers, our families, and the youth we serve would ALL be so grateful for any financial donations on behalf of The Mark Wandall Foundation. With the Covid pandemic, we have seen the need for our services increase exponentially. Even counseling services and bereavement services outside of our Foundation have a ‘waitlist’ right now and grieving youth are struggling.
The Mark Wandall Foundation would also love hands-on volunteers to sit and assist on fundraising committees, event planning committees, and even help with grant writing. It would be wonderful to have assistance planning and executing our quarterly reconnects! Many hands make light work, and we are always grateful for any hands-on support available to us, whether for a season or for a prolonged amount of time.
Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and/or sign up for our quarterly newsletter to stay current! If you’re interested in volunteering or want to sign up for the newsletter, please email Gina at Gina@ElevateSRQ.com.