GROW Healthy Kids

GROW Healthy Kids


Our vision is to help develop the healthiest children by supporting grassroots welling initiatives that foster positive relationships between youth and trusted adults in our community.

These moving testimonies illustrate how we fulfill our mission, vision, and values. Together, we GROW healthy kids, and GROW healthy communities.

From: Mariann Testa, 2nd grade teacher Hamilton Elementary, Seminole County Public Schools

Sent: April 21, 2023

Because we have so many students, the children have limited access to playground equipment. The days kids were "in the field" for recess were not as engaging, which often resulted in frustration and arguments that would carry over to our classroom. It's difficult to continually come up with a variety of independent activities for students at recess when there are limited supplies. It's also hard to see students not enjoying their free time as they should. Having the donation of balls, jump ropes and games for our students to use at recess was such a help during the school year! The supplies make an impact day after day - not only at recess but also long after the play is over. The smiles, laughter and joy carry into our classroom and changes how we feel about facing the rest of the day. Not only are students happier, but they are building relationships beyond recess and are much more engaged in the classroom. Thank you so much for caring about the health and welfare of our students! We truly appreciate what you have done for us!

From: Officer Pablo Vargas, UCF Police Department

Sent: May 5, 2023

On behalf of the UCF Police Department, we want to thank the Grow Healthy Kids program for the opportunity to receive these sports balls. Having these sports balls has provided us several great outreach opportunities for us at our Downtown UCF campus. The ability to provide sports balls to the kids in the community has proven to show meaningful and impactful relationships. This community outreach opportunity has been very refreshing and well accepted in the community. Thank you again for all you do in your continued efforts to make greater communities.

From: Officer Rebekah Matviak, Orlando Police Department, North Patrol Division

Sent: August 22, 2021

I was dispatched to a call where a missing juvenile had returned home. When I arrived, mom was waiting for me outside and began to tell me some issues she was having with her son and why he possibly ran away.

She quickly called for him to come out of the house as I wanted to put eyes on him and speak to him myself. When he came outside, I saw his demeanor which was angry, frustrated and from the way he was engaging with mom it was evident that mom was overbearing, and their relationship was contentious.

Whenever I tried to ask the son questions about why he ran away and where he was, etc., mom interjected and began to argue with her son as to his answers and tried to contradict what he was saying. The son became very introverted at that point and would not even look at me.

Knowing I would be met with resistance as far questioning the son as to the reasons why he ran away, I diverted his attention and asked him what his favorite sport was. This was an open door. I told him to follow me to my patrol vehicle and asked mom if she could just stay outside the house and I would be back.

The son and I walked to my patrol vehicle as I told him I had something for him. He told me he loved football, so I opened my patrol vehicle and from the bag of GROW balls was able to pick out a football for him.

It was at this point; I saw breakthrough with the son. His demeanor changed, he was so thankful for his new football and from here I began to inquire about his life and find out what it was that truly was upsetting him and what had provoked him to run away. After a long , in-depth conversation with the son where he had sincerely opened up to me, I was better able to understand the full dynamics of the family unit.

Had I not changed my course of questioning about his running away to " What is your favorite sport", I would never have been able to understand him and then speak to his mother about resources that are available to her and her family. Handing the son the football, provided by GROW, was the conduit in which I was able to connect and understand the son which in turn also allowed him to feel comfortable enough to speak to me!

From: Officer Orlando Roman, Orlando Police Department

Sent: July 28, 2021

To: Corporal Marcus Hyatt, Orlando Police Department

Subject: RE: G.R.O.W. Central Florida

Corporal Hyatt,
Good afternoon sir, I just wanted to speak about an incident here in India 8 that occurred a two months ago (05/05/21). I had the opportunity to foster a great relationship with some of the youth and parents here at the Pacifico Place Apts through the use of GROW Healthy Kids’s Athletic Balls.

Pacifico Place Apts is home to many Central and South American immigrants. Many of our community members are undocumented immigrants, moving here for an opportunity for honest work and a better prospective future for their children. I had the great opportunity to shape the interactions between our law enforcement officers and the youth/parents of the neighborhood by starting an impromptu soccer game with the kids. We spent over an hour just playing street soccer, laughing and bonding over the experience. The parents thanked me for bringing a different light/perspective to law enforcement within the neighborhood.

Pacifico Place is a common area for proactive patrol, in an effort to combat substance use/sales within East Patrol. Through GROW’s donation to the city’s youth, I was able to change the narrative for these young kids and their parents, who have historically seen Orlando PD as a mechanism for arrests, rather than a catalyst for community outreach.

Please extend my thanks to Colleen and GROW Healthy Kids, and if there are any more soccer balls (since the kids were eager to keep them!), I’d love to grab some more!


Orlando Roman
India Alpha Midnight Squad, East Patrol
Orlando Police Department

From: Valerie Lopez, Edgewater High School, Principal’s Secretary (Orange County)

Sent: December 9, 2021

It’s the Holiday season and here at our high school (identified students are asked if they need/want a lil something for the Holidays in ways of a season gift) we tell the kids it’s a random selection so we don’t upset anyone’s pride. I can tell you, every “wish” list students make have SHOES! as wants /needs. It’s wonderful that because of the GROW program we have shoes to offer them

Thank you for helping us help our students!

From the beginning of the year we have had students come to receive shoes so that they can participate in a sport, or have decent shoes so that their peers don’t make fun of them. When kids are younger the stigma of fitting in may not be as much as it is in High School – BUT high school students would rather not come to school if they don’t have the nice, proper fitting shoe. it’s SO important that students are afforded the opportunity to have a nice/great pair of shoes.

Thank you for all you do. We here at Edgewater High School thank you for blessing our students.

From: Sharon Hill, Stenstrom Elementary School, 5th Grade Teacher (Seminole County)

Sent: October 21, 2021

Dear Colleen,

Thank you so much for your generous donation of recess equipment to our classroom. The students are so excited to have some items to enjoy when we are outside! They are also very appreciative of the bookmarks you provided. I appreciate GROW Healthy Kids's investment in our students' lives by increasing the opportunity for them to be physically active. It's nice to have some ways to encourage them to engage in fun activities to better their physical and mental health. Thank you for your commitment to our students!


Sharon Hill

From: Mary Lynn Hess, k-5 STEM Resource Teacher, Goldsboro Elementary Magnet School (Seminole County)

Sent: October 25, 2021


On Friday I received my materials for my Run Club. GROW Healthy Kids is too kind. ❤️

It was just in time for our first practice today. I had 60 kids show up. I am super pumped! It's great to know parents value exercise as a part of raising a healthy child. One kid said to me after practice, "This is the best club ever!". That made my day.

GROW really does make a difference! Your determination, kindness, and belief in your program is much appreciated.

Thank you from all of us at GEMS.

Mary Lynn

From: Christine Peacock, Lake Orienta Elementary School, Principal (Seminole County

Sent: August 9, 2021

The work of GROW Healthy Kids has brought new life to our campus. Staff and students are thrilled to see how the recess playground, flagpole, and other common areas "pop" with color. LKO is forever grateful!

Mrs. Chris Peacock
Lake Orienta Elementary School

From: Beth Davalos, MSW, RPT-S, LCSW-S, School Social Worker, Seminole County Public Schools

Sent: March 29, 2021

Hi Colleen,

Thank you so much for the sneakers. I can't tell you how much it meant to this student and the timing was more than perfect. This student really needed this gift more than ever today. GROW Healthy Kids is a blessing!!!

Thank you so much!!

Best regards,
Beth Davalos MSW, RPT-S, LCSW-S
School Social Worker
Intervention Services
Student Support Services Department
Seminole County Public Schools