Farewell to a Valuable City Advisory Board

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Last week was the final meeting of the now disbanded City of Boca Raton Advisory Board for People with Disabilities. 
It was a holiday party, albeit a sad one for many in this photo, men and women who have dedicated years of service to the city and to the community by serving on this board, and by using our collective voices to be heard above the din of the jack hammers and cement trucks all around us building a new, “better” Boca Raton. The irony is that’s exactly what we thought we were doing as well. Funny, isn’t it? 
Now it is over and done.

 

I’ve been on this board for twelve years, meeting every first Thursday of the month to discuss issues impacting so many disenfranchised members of this community, folks who have no voice other than ours to ask for things like beach access mobility mats or universal playgrounds where kids with disabilities can play alongside their able bodied friends. 
We gave scholarships to FAU, Lynn and Palm Beach State students with disabilities. We bought library books that help families find resources available to them, or to perhaps learn how to cope with a child who can no longer walk, or a returning veteran dealing with PTSD. What an honor.
We put on disability employment awareness events at Town Center, and ice cream socials for families living with challenges, both intellectual and physical, at Mizner Park. And it was from within the ranks of this group that we launched the Boating & Beach Bash eight years ago.

 

I was honored to have chaired the board for two years. But I was most honored to serve alongside some extraordinary people whose lives have been touched by disabilities and who have touched my life with their grace, compassion and kindness to others. 
We’re not the losers here. It is the City of Boca Raton that loses out on this executive decision. They will be hard pressed to ever find another group more dedicated and passionate about making a difference and working for the city for free.

 

Going forward four boards will now be combined into one. All together there are 43 disenfranchised folks from these boards. Only 11 will be allowed to serve on the new multi-themed entity as envisioned by the city. The new board will meet quarterly to determine which special interest group within the ranks of the new board has the loudest voice and can get anything done in such a constrained, limited environment. It stuns me.

 

I’d like to thank Deputy Mayor Robert Weinroth for attending this meeting last night to thank us for our service and for getting this final group picture taken by his lovely wife, Pamela.

 

Over and out.

 

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Jay Van Vechten has been a full time resident of Boca Raton since 1997. His family settled in the community in 1970. Jay spent his 40 year career in the public relations and marketing communications business in New York City. His company was among the top 30 independently owned and operated firms in the nation, with clients that included Johnson & Johnson, Hearst Publishing, New York State tourism, Tylenol, Miss Universe, Inc., the American Dental Association and Acu-Vue Contact Lenses. Disabilities changed Jay’s life when he was critically injured in a fall in 2001. Two years later he joined the City of Boca Raton Disability Advisory Board, which he went on to chair for two years. That board was recently disbanded by the city. In 2008 Jay approached the city about starting the Boating & Beach Bash for People with Disabilities. Initially a city-driven and supported event, the city withdrew its sponsorship of the event three years later and relinquished control to Jay and his team of volunteers. The group went on to create the largest free, fun-day in the nation for kids, adults and wounded warriors. Held each March in Spanish River Park, the award winning Bash now attracts 5,000 guests annually and is supported by 500 volunteers drawn from every sector of the community. Jay and his wife Lowell have one son, Nicholas, a Triage Medic in the US Army.

1 COMMENT

  1. Isn’t it ironic that the only City Council member that came to this farewell event was Deputy Mayor Weinroth? Mr. Weinroth has been the loudest voice on the council for the elimination of boards and committees; hence the antagonist leading to this closure and this picture….Isn’t it also amazing that Mr. Weinroth, the city’s self appointed ‘photographer in chief’, would have the unmitigated gall to have himself placed in a picture memorializing such a sobering event. Al Zucaro

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