Inspiring the Kids of Miami Bridge

OneWorld Properties invited six kids staying at Miami Bridge Youth & Family Services’ Central Campus shelter this week to see the 13th floor, 1,830-square-foot, $2,500-a-night Everglades Suite at the Biltmore Hotel where U.S. presidents have stayed.IMG_3533

They posed for glamour shots in front of the stone fireplace with a bullet hole where a mobster was shot sometime in the late 1920s or early 1930s.

They stood under hand-painted frescos, observing 360-degree views of Coral Gables.

One girl began playing the baby grand piano with delight.

Downstairs, they stepped into the ornate wood-trimmed Palme D’Or, one of the hotel’s four restaurants.

“You know what this reminds me of? The Titanic,” another girl said.

They watched kitchen staff chopping vegetables and smelled fresh dough baking in the hotel’s culinary academy.

One boy expressed interest in a culinary career.

Executive Chef David Hackett said half of what it takes to get a job is a positive personality.

“(Hospitality) is one of the industries where you can really progress and grow,” said Philippe Parodi, the Biltmore’s VP of marketing and sales, who gave the tour.

The 275-room property at 1200 Anastasia Avenue sits on 150 acres and has more than 700 employees.

The kids also learned some local history.

After just eight months of construction, developer George Merrick opened the Mediterranean-style hotel in 1926, which hosted aquatic shows in the 1930s, served as a hospital during World War II and then as the early site of the University of Miami’s medical school.

Unoccupied for almost 10 years, the hotel opened from 1987-1990 after the city restored it. In 1992, Seaway Hotels Corporation reopened the hotel, which hosted the Summit of the Americas. In 1996, the National Register of Historic Places designated it a National Historic Landmark. Seaway has spent $40 million restoring the structure.

On the tour, the group walked by the 600,000-galloon, 22,000-square-foot pool and 18-hole, 71-par golf course and danced in the 6,528-square-foot ballroom.

“You give them that opportunity to dream,” says OneWorld CEO Peggy Fucci.

After a tough upbringing in Lima, Peru, she identifies with the youth. With the help of caring individuals, she overcame the challenges she faced and has been able to achieve success.

During the tour, Peggy told the kids material things can get lost or broken, adding: “The things you experience in life are the most important, your family, friends.”

Lunch at California Pizza Kitchen at Miracle Mile in downtown Gables capped off the outing.

We plan to organize monthly activities. In May, we accompanied 12 young people from Miami Bridge on a field trip to the Miami Herald headquarters in Doral. Publisher Alexandra Villoch led the tour to give the teens an understanding of everything needed to produce a daily newspaper. The kids loved seeing the printing press.

Through our contacts, OneWorld is coordinating the setup of eight Mac mini computers at Miami Bridge’s Central Campus and five at its Homestead Campus. This will give the youth computer access to do homework and work on their resumes among other items.

And we’re planning a night of giving to benefit Miami Bridge at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 12, with the Diane von Furstenberg store at the Village of Merrick Park, 320 San Lorenzo Ave., #1235, Coral Gables. Keep checking the blog for more details.

For every unit OneWorld Properties sells in Miami-Dade County, we donate $100 to Miami Bridge.

Miami Bridge shelters and counsels abused, neglected and abandoned youth ages 10-17. To learn more about the charity’s meaningful work, see

As a Miami Bridge board member and volunteer, Peggy and our team hope to touch the lives of as many kids as we can.