homepage logo

Winning Kids Club preparing to house Haitian orphans

By Staff | Jan 21, 2010

As relatives and agencies prepare for an influx of Haitian residents after two catastrophic earthquakes in the island nation, one Cape Coral organization has shifted the focus of its facility to care for babies escaping the nationwide destruction.
The Winning Kids Club is a nonprofit charity organization that assists local disadvantaged and disabled children living in Lee or Charlotte counties, but according to president Gail Ghigna-Hallas, the group’s focus is switching exclusively to caring for up to 10 Haitian children ranging from infants to 5 year olds.
“They are looking for places like us for kids to go in the interim until they find adopted parents when they come over,” said Ghigna-Hallas.
The club has a 3,200-square-foot facility that she described as “very large and children friendly,” and the staff is entirely run by volunteers. Normally, the volunteers conduct outreach at centers like the YMCA, the STARS Complex in Fort Myers or the Winners House.
“Right now all our efforts are going to this,” she said. “We’re making sure everything is done legally. We are trying to protect the children.”
On Saturday the club will begin accepting donations from the community– cribs, diapers, clothes or non-perishable items, for example — to support its new mission. Any of the donations are tax deductible because the organization is a 501(c)(3).
Most of the club’s volunteers are licensed medical professionals and they are also seeking other experienced nurses or pediatricians, she said.
Ghigna-Hallas said she is networking with the Department of Children and Families as well as U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s office to stay abreast to the newest developments in moving children from Haiti.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano signed an order Tuesday stating that orphans already in the process of being adopted can enter the country now to receive medical care. She added that the department’s focus is to reunify families in Haiti, yet they want to bring children here to deal with severe injuries.
Already the Cape Coral facility has been contacted by numerous people asking if they could adopt one of the Haitian children coming to the United States.
“It is heartwarming to know there are so many people in the community willing to take the responsibility,” said Ghigna-Hallas.
Nadereh Salim, CEO of Children’s Network of Southwest Florida, couldn’t say whether adoptions will increase after the devastation in Haiti. She said the agency hasn’t been asked at this time to participate in any large-scale adoption program, instead it is surveying available room in foster homes or shelters.
“So far we haven’t been asked to assist with any adoption initiatives,” said Salim. “We are determining what we can bring to the table so they can have a place to stay until final plans are put together.”
Just because the Children’s Network isn’t currently involved in Haitian adoptions doesn’t mean that other private agencies aren’t increasing their case loads. Salim said the Children’s Network doesn’t do private adoptions and it typically only focuses on cases where a child is neglected, abused or abandoned.
“If they come here as refugees and become wards of the state, then, yes, we will be involved in the adoption,” she said.
For more information on donations to the Winning Kids Club, e-mail wkc@winningkidsclub.org or call 671-0990.