Monday, January 25, 2016
Cristina Cabrera Jarro
HOLLYWOOD | About 40,000 children in Broward County are being raised by their grandparents or other relatives. As a third grader, Isabella Glazer knew she wanted to do something about those numbers. Why? Because Isabella and her sister, Gabriella, are part of that statistic.
From a young age, the sisters were adopted by their grandparents, Ira and Marietta Glazer. They often wondered if they were the only ones in that situation.
“When we searched to see groups that were involved with grandparents and grandkids we saw grandparents support groups, this and that, meetups, but we didn’t see anything really for the kids,” said Isabella, a sophomore at Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory. “I was the kid who wanted to meet other kids who were also raised by their grandparents.”
That desire led her—along with her sister, a freshman—to start Bella’s Kinship Group, or Bella’s Group, a non-profit support group for kids being raised by their grandparents and other relatives. The group, founded in 2010, partners with Forever Family, which highlights children in foster care searching for adoptive families, and HANDY (Helping Abused Neglected Disadvantage Youth).
Bella’s Group hosts social meetups four times a year. With bowling or skating parties, museum outings, movies and more, Isabella and Gabriella make sure that fun takes center stage at the gatherings, especially during the holiday season.
“The Christmas party we have every year it’s so that the kids have fun,” said Isabella. “The (Nan Knox) Boys and Girls Club has a big gym and they can do a bunch of sports and play.”
While the children play, the adults socialize, sharing experiences with other guardians, gathering information and getting connected with resources.
In October 2015, Bella’s Group was honored nationally with the title of Angels in Adoption by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. The sisters, along with their grandparents, spent a week in Washington, D.C., where they also were recognized by Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings.
At the gala where they were honored, the Glazer family marveled at the stories of the other honorees.
“When we got there and saw and heard the stories of all these people adopting these and that many kids, (my grandparents) were like, ‘I feel like I’ve done nothing, I need to adopt more kids,’” said Gabriella, a freshman at Chaminade-Madonna.
But the Glazers have raised Isabella and Gabriella well. In addition to Bella’s Group, the girls contribute to other charities, such as ChildNet, the Pantry of Broward, Women in Distress and the Children’s Home Society.
Both are honor students at Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory. Gabriela cheers in the school squad. Both play in the Florida Youth Orchestra (Isabella the flute and Gabriella the violin), and both earned black belts in Taekwondo.
As Richard Pulido, senior director of advancement at Chaminade-Madonna, sees it, the Glazer girls are entrepreneurs and leaders driven by a passion to help others.
“A lot of kids in (their) situation could have taken a much more negative path,” he said. “We see a lot of children who don’t have the best of early childhood end up in horrific places at (their) age, and here (they) are defying the odds, saying ‘Forget the past. I’m going to move forward and make beautiful lives with my struggles.’”
Judith Muchek, in her first year as president of Chaminade-Madonna, said the values of the Glazer family exemplify the Marianist education provided at the school.
“Clearly this is a family story. This is a story of faith. We’re an educational institution, but this is also, from the girls’ perspective, a story of service, and it’s a story of justice, and it’s a story of outreach. And what we are trying to do, generally, we’re trying to adapt and change not only ourselves but the world to be a more positive place,” said Muchek.
Time, talent and treasure have driven the girls, but so have simple but powerful philosophies they learned from their grandparents: Finish what you start. Get involved. Help those in need. And a few philosophies of their own.
“No matter how bad it gets, it can only get better,” Gabriella said.
“Or a little worse, but it could get better after that,” Isabella added. “Everything happens for a reason. At the time that it happens you may not think that it’s good, or why is this happening, what did I do, but after all of the years, if you look back, this got us to where we are now.”