Pan-Florida Challenge Director, Maura Plante
We met Maura when she reached out for some help with the Pan-Florida Challenge. The riders all together raised $140,000 in year one and that will buy 490,000 meals for hungry kids. What inspires a person to give up their life in the corporate world to step aside, drop everything to follow a heart-felt calling? If you ask Maura she will tell you she had searched for love and happiness for 40 years, and she is listening to that call and has found it in her life now.
“I used to volunteer and teach a class on identity to Middle School kids and mentor in the summer. You could breathe good roots into their lives.” Each summer her church, Christ Fellowship, would take 800 kids to Belle Glade, Florida to summer camps and feed and play and encourage those with nothing all day.
“We would sleep on floors, we would feed them, and put on sports camps all day long for the neighborhood kids. We saw such extreme poverty but also the strong potential in these kids. Once you see suffering and experience extreme poverty first hand – you cannot ignore it any longer. You just don’t complain any longer.
But one day a grandmother dropped off their 2.5 yr old from 8am-4pm with a beer can in their hand and on their breath and things changed for Maura. In the arms of a formerly homeless child (now adopted a son of Maura’s friend and a teenager) who she mentored – who’s tough heart cracked open in love to this broken boy that week…
“Experiencing that first hand was indelible and right up the road! It really has been my journey with my faith though that made me do this.”
What was she doing before you ask?
“I had been laid off with a corporate job. I am an innovator and the cycle was complete for my position. I applied for big jobs and those cycles go 3-4 months to run all international products for the company I was applying for. Someone else inside the company was awarded that job and I had been volunteering at the Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County and had helped here and there. Going into winter months I found I had this extra time.”
She decided she would work for them for a few months. She helped put together an event with 250 walkers called Walk the Walk to End Homelessness. She put together a flash mob to show what 180 homeless kids look like, the number of homeless kids coming in for help each week. The event raised $25,000 in 60 days.
She decided to pack meals to feed hungry kids in a non-profit helping kids in Haiti and became interested in how to make a lasting impact there, as well as for hungry kids across Florida. She teamed up with Ed Mullen, Founder of the Pan-Florida Challenge and Jim Willey to bring the ride event to life in Florida based on the effective fundraising model of the Pan-Mass Challenge. The Pan-Mass Challenge started 39 years ago, raised $41 million in 2014 from a 190 bike ride across Massachusetts with 5,500 riders and funded over $500 million in cancer research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute since its inception.
What happens for cancer research when there aren’t strings attached to how the money can be used is that the scientists can be creative and do what they do best: imagination breeds solutions without restrictions that make breakthroughs. In contrast, much NIH and federal grant money has stipulations that are restrictive in their use.
The fundraising models that activate riders into advocates and evangelists for the cause to their network of friends and family is highly effective and generates enormous passion. In the Pan-Florida Challenge the same is true: the money raised, 100% is used very effectively and efficiently to get nutritious food directly to the hungry children who need it who may have fallen through the cracks of other forms of support.
The Pan-Florida Challenge Rider Fund is funding 490,000 meals across Florida and Haiti. In Florida, they are funding thousands of PFC Power Packs with 13 meals in a bag inserted into local elementary school children’s backpacks on a Friday afternoon to take home and last the weekend long for kids living in hunger.
1 out of 4 local kids in Collier, Lee & Hendry Counties are going hungry at some point this year. This is intolerable- these children are our future. How can a child thrive, learn and grow in school without food in their belly? We want to solve for hunger in kids in Southern Florida. We will keep riding our bikes until we do. We intend to end Childhood hunger, 1 meal at a time. Until Not one is left. Not 1.
Join us! Volunteers needed. Riders wanted. Sponsors and donors invited.