By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
Ava Goldstone started as a volunteer for the Palm Beach County Miracle League, a nonprofit that organizes a baseball league for kids with disabilities.
Soon, she will leave a permanent mark not only on the memories of the kids she helps, but in the Delray Beach park where the games take place.
The 18-year-old Boca Raton resident helped turn an idea to add a Boundless Dreams Playground to Miller Park into a reality.
The playground is slated to be open on May 19.
She was recognized for her involvement with the Miracle League recently by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, which awarded her the 2018 CARTER Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy award.
The CARTER Award for Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy honors a young person with a proven record of exceptional generosity who demonstrates outstanding civic and charitable responsibility and whose philanthropy encourages others to engage on a community, national, and/or international level.
“I feel so fortunate to be recognized by the Association for Fundraising Professionals for my role in bringing the Boundless Dreams Playground to fruition,” she said. “Once built, Boundless Dreams will be a hub of energy and excitement for my community.”
Michael Nilsen, Vice President, Communications & Public Policy Association of Fundraising Professionals said Goldstone was just want the panel of judges was looking for in a candidate fit for the award.
“She was exceptional,” he said. “The youth awards are always hard to judge. The stories are inspirational.”
Nielsen said the judges were impressed by her goal to bring the playground to the park.
“She had a plan, had a vision,” he said. “It’s just extraordinary. It really shows what young people can do.”
Goldstone was a guest at a Miracle League game a few years ago.
“I was sitting in the stands and some force, greater than anything I can explain, drew me onto the field,” she recalled. “I met this little boy, Aiden. We walked the bases together. I helped him out of his special chair and he walked them for the very first time.”
She began helping as a volunteer buddy. She then secured an internship with the nonprofit and helped organize the first annual Dinner on the Diamond, a fundraising event, which ultimately raised $60,000.
It was when she noticed the inability of the Miracle League kids to play on a playground in the park before or after their games that gave her the idea to help with another project, a barrier free playground.
“It broke my heart to watch these kids have a sense of dejection because they physically couldn’t play,” she said.
So, the fundraising for the playground began. The goal: to raise $210,000.
Through events like a mini-golf fundraiser, selling a calendar of Miracle League children in action and working with Miracle League staff to apply for grants from Women’s Impact 100 and the Men’s Impact 100, which awarded Boundless Dreams $100,000 and $50,000, respectively, Goldstone was determined to raise enough money for the playground.
It was her participation in the Palm Beach Philanthropy Tank, a Shark Tank-style program, where she presented her project to four community philanthropists in front of a live audience, that she was awarded the top grant totaling $15,000.
Two other philanthropists in the audience saw her presentation and were so inspired that they invited her to submit requests for funding. She made in-person presentations to both of these philanthropists (one foundation and one individual), and received two grants totaling $40,000—reaching her final fundraising goal.
She said it was her mentor Vicki Pugh who helped her through the tank process and who recommended her for the award.
She attended the international convention last month in New Orleans where she received the honor and spoke to the group.