During a power outage, he was unable to charge a medical device. He’s championing a bill to help change that for others.

It was during Hurricane Irma that Miami resident Franco Di Paolo found his passion. He had lost his hearing at a young age and received a cochlear implant at the age of two.

Everything changed during that 2017 storm when the power went out. Franco and his family had prepared with emergency supplies, but without power there was no way to charge his implant. Eventually he was unable to hear again.

Because of this life-changing experience, Franco has become an advocate for millions of people who rely on battery-powered medical devices.

“The batteries in my implant are internal, so there’s no way to have extras on hand,” said Di Paolo, now 21.

“Without power, my ability to hear was gone until power was restored in my neighborhood. I felt insecure and confused. I was 15 years old and had to seek resources elsewhere to be able to hear it,” she said.

“First we tried to charge our car batteries, it took about 16 hours to reach full charge, then I would look for nearby stores with electricity and ask if I could charge my batteries. Everyone was always willing to help, which I was grateful for, but it also made me realize that there are thousands of other people whose lives depend on electricity or battery-powered medical devices.”

Now a student at Boca Raton-based Lynn University, where he is studying entrepreneurship, Di Paolo is currently working to pass a bill in Florida that will require the installation of solar panels for exclusive use to charge medical devices during power outages.

And recently received Cochlear Americas’ first professional scholarship for academic excellence, athletic achievement and medical device advocacy.

“I was 2 years old when I got my cochlear implant. For the first time, I could hear dogs barking, birds chirping, and the sound of my mother’s voice. Since I was implanted very early, I fit in very easily with my other hearing classmates.

“Growing up with hearing loss taught me how to defend myself academically and athletically — I played basketball, tennis and volleyball and ran cross country. My cochlear implant also allowed me to listen to my professors with ease and set me up for success to eventually graduate summa cum laude.”

He said that when Hurricane Irma hit Miami, his family, like thousands of others, was without power for weeks.

“Although we had emergency supplies, we didn’t consider how we would carry my cochlear implant. My neighbor (who is an insulin-dependent type 2 diabetic) had installed a generator on his porch to power a small refrigerator to store his insulin and was going to let me use it to charge my implant.

“The day after the hurricane, I went to his apartment to check on him when we both got some bad news. Condos are not allowed to use gas generators due to fire hazards, and this is where my journey began.

“I realized that what happened to me also affected others during and after the hurricane. Electric mobility devices, ventilators, oxygen concentrators, feeding equipment, chair lifts, communication devices, dialysis machines – the list of medical devices that require power is endless.

“We had to shelter in place. We had no family or close friends to turn to, and no financial resources to evacuate. I couldn’t stop thinking about those who needed their medical devices but ran out of power,” he said.

“I am so grateful for this scholarship that will help me pursue my passions. Life can sometimes be unforgiving, but keeping a positive and optimistic attitude made my journey a success.”

86th Royal Poincia Festival

Presented annually by the Tropical Flowering Tree Society, this festival celebrates the glorious trees all around us that are in bloom at this time of year.

Several events are scheduled to kick off with a party at 6pm on June 4th at the Garden House at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. At 7:30 pm, the 2023 Royal Poinciana Fiesta Queen and Court Fellows, Larry Schokman Book Award recipient and Poinciana Ambassador Award recipient will be introduced.

The festivities continue June 7-11 with a painting party, walking tour, history talks, bike and tram rides, and the planting of two new trees. More information at www.tfts.org and www.royalp.org Some events are free.

Honorees at The Children’s Trust’s annual Champions for Children Awards Ceremony are Fiorella Altare Christie of the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe’s Thrive by 5 Childcare Scholarships Initiative, Abigail Peskin of the University of Miami PCIT Program, Lauren Page, Evelio C Torres of the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe, Regina Davis, Annie Neasman of Jessie Trice Community Health System School Health Services, and Lori-Ann Cox of Breakthrough Miami.

Children’s Trust launches awards for leaders

The first Excellence in Youth Leadership awards were presented by The Children’s Trust at the annual Champions for Children awards ceremony on 27 April. our community.”

Congratulations to Lauren Page, an 11th Ransom Everglades School freshman, first-time recipient of the Youth Leadership Excellence Award; Evelio C. Torres, president and CEO of the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade and Monroe, recipient of the David Lawrence Jr. Champion for Children for achievement and dedication to children; Abigail Peskin of the University of Miami Parent-Child Interaction Therapy program, recipient of the Excellence in Direct Care of Children and Families Award; and Regina Davis, a longtime campaigner for parental involvement and youth violence who was honored with the Excellence in Advocacy Award.

Also honored were Breakthrough Miami’s Summer Institute, the Early Learning Coalition’s Thrive by 5 Child Care Scholarship Initiative and Jessie Trice Community Health System School Health Services. More at www.thechildrenstrust.org

The Children’s Trust is the largest funder of summer camps in our community of 276 locations. Each is required to provide literacy instruction in addition to physical conditioning as well as other enriching activities.

The Trust and M-DCPS are teaming up on “Summer 305” to bring M-DCPS teachers into camps to teach reading and math to combat summer learning loss. Parents can find a program near them HERE.

write to [email protected] with news for this column.

During a power outage, he was unable to charge a medical device. He’s championing a bill to help change that for others.

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