DOWNEY - The fourth annual Las Floristas Scholarship dinner, which was held Wednesday night at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, celebrated the remarkable recoveries of more than 40 Rancho Pediatric patients and rewarded them for their outstanding scholarships.The Kenneth L. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation underwrote the event, as it has since the start of the program. More than 200 people attended the dinner, which featured a number of very special moments. Cesar Chavez, who overcame a disabling injury to return to school, brought tears to the eyes of virtually everyone in the crowd when he paused for a moment during his keynote "Scholar Address" to walk to the very back of the room and give his mom a hug for helping him overcome his injury. "I just want my mom to know how much I appreciate everything she has done for me, and I want to give her a hug in front of everyone here so she knows how special she is," the outstanding young man told the audience. He is currently a junior at Cal State L.A. Thanks to his successful treatment at Rancho, he has resumed his quest of becoming a firefighter and is majoring in Fire Science in college. "We are so happy for Cesar, because he embodies the excellence that is the hallmark of so many of our patients, who often rise to great heights during their recoveries and recapture their dreams," said Las Floristas Scholarship Director and Rancho speech therapist B.J. Sena. Dr. Luis Montes, chair of Rancho's Pediatrics Department, joined Rancho/Las Floristas Wheelchair Sports Director Rob Welty and Recreation Therapist Julie Helgren in presenting "Las Floristas Spirit of Life" awards to Alex Peralta and Maira Morales, two patients whose post-injury work exemplifies excellence not just in the classroom, but in life. Alex currently attends Cerritos College and Maira is a student at Cal State Dominguez Hills. "We are very proud of both Alex and Maira, because they have not only excelled in school, they have decided to make a difference in the world. They are not only doing this here at Rancho by mentoring other patients and volunteering at the hospital, but also in their communities," said Dr. Montes. "They exemplify what our Pediatrics program is all about." The Norris Foundation presented certificates of "Highest Honors", "High Honors" and "Honors" to the more than 40 elementary, middle school, high school and college students that were honored during the evening. Many of the older students also received scholar checks to help fund their educational pursuits. "This is the most significant evening of the year for Las Floristas, because we know what it takes for these young people to overcome obstacles and be successful," said Las Floristas President Lisa Hanson. "We have seen the work that Rancho has done with these wonderful kids, and then it is truly amazing to see what they accomplish with the love and support of their families." Las Floristas has made possible many of the signature programs of Rancho's Pediatrics Department for nearly 40 years. "The magic of Las Floristas is more than just providing funding," said Rancho CEO Jorge Orozco. "The Ladies of Las Floristas come out to the hospital, get to know our children, and work with them and our staff. These fabulous ladies develop a deep understanding of how Rancho helps give kids their lives back after a catastrophic injury or illness. We love these ladies, and we are so glad that they are always there for our kids." The Norris Foundation has also been there for Rancho's kids for several decades, having funded Rancho's Center for Applied Rehabilitation Technology, purchased buses for outings for the Pediatrics patients, and serving as a major supporter of Las Floristas. "At the Norris Foundation, we look for programs that change lives, and there is no better example of that than Rancho Pediatrics," said Mrs. Hansen, who also serves as the Chair of the Norris Foundation Board. "We are very pleased to be associated with the Rancho team, and to support the children of Rancho who are accomplishing so much in their young lives." Nearly the entire Las Floristas organization worked on this signature event, but special thanks from Rancho went out to Susan Dilday, Vicky Dawson and Bobbe Moore, who contributed countless hours to this program throughout the year. "We want each and every one of our scholars to know how much we love them, and how proud we are of the tremendous achievements they have made in school and in every aspect of their lives," said Dr. Montes. Perhaps the quote from the program book by Edward Everett Hale best summed up the meaning of this most special evening. "I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do."
********** Published: October 27, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 28