BRATTLEBORO â€” For the past 26 years, a group of area real estate agents has raised more than $150,000 to meet the needs of area youth.
It started in 1983, when members of the Southeastern Vermont Board of Realtors learned the family of a Dummerston girl, who had serious medical issues, didnâ€™t have the financial means to pay for her care.
The SVBR is now known as the Southern Vermont Board of Realtors.
As a result, Frank Martocci, Cathy Eakins, John Morrison and Al Carbone formed the Realtors Youth Benefit Corporation so they could donate funds to the family.
At first, they borrowed money from SVBR to pay for the medical care. They then established fundraising events to pay for RYBCâ€™s charitable giving.
Those events included auto raffles and the construction of new homes, profits of which went to the fund. Along the way, they started a golf tournament to benefit the fund.
Â â€œThe golf tournament is our major fundraiser,â€ said David Brown, of Better Homes and Garden/Masiello Group, a member of the RYBCâ€™s Distribution Committee.
Last September, the RYBC raised $6,250 as a result of the tournament, which is held at
Haystack Golf Course.
Â The fund was originally established to meet medical needs that were not covered by insurance, said Brown. â€œWe still do some of that,â€ he said, but much of the focus has been shifted to enrichment type programs for children living in difficult situations.
Â â€œWe have seen an increasing need for kids with special needs because of the changes in state laws,â€ said Brown. â€œItâ€™s clear that there are needs not being met and weâ€™re committed to helping fill in the gaps.’
Â Ginger Gaudette, the mother of two young boys, said the RYBC helped her get them into summer youth programs.
Â â€œI had to cobble together different activities and camps,â€ she said. â€œAll that stuff costs money.â€ The RYBC was one piece of the puzzle.
Gaudette, who is divorced, receives a small monthly stipend from her husband, who is currently in prison.
If not for RYBCâ€™s help, she said, she would have had to quit her job to care for her boys during the summer.
â€œWithout the help of the community, I would have been in a real jam,â€ she said.
Cindy Coble, the mother of a 13-year-old autistic boy, Jack, thanked the RYBC for helping to pay his tuition to the New England Youth Theatre for the past seven years.
Coble, a single mother with three kids, wasnâ€™t having financial difficulties until she was hit by a car while riding a bicycle, requiring seven surgeries.
â€œRYBC has been there consistently for Jack and I canâ€™t express my gratitude enough,’ said Coble.
Jackâ€™s health problems made school difficult for him, said Rebecca Waxman, the executive director of the New England Youth Theatre.
â€œThis was a kid ready for success,â€ she said. Since his first foray onto the stage, Jack has excelled, said Waxman.
â€œHis energy on the stage is limitless,â€ she said. â€œIn every show he has been in he has been outstanding. Itâ€™s really delightful to watch him.â€
Though the NEYT is rightfully proud of the work itâ€™s done with Jack, Waxman said the credit belongs to his mother.
â€œI commend Cindy for doing an exhaustive search to help Jack get the help he needs,â€ said Waxman.
Brown said it has been a pleasure watching Jackâ€™s progress with NEYT.
â€œHe really thrives in that setting,â€ he said.
Over the years, the RYBC donated money to a number of young people for eye glasses, dental work, medical bills and tuition for camp and after school programs.
â€œWe have great communication with the area service providers such as Youth Services, Brattleboro Parks & Recreation Department, River Gallery School, Green Mountain Girls Camp, YMCA Lewis Day Camp, Camp Waubanong, and New England Youth Theatre among othersâ€ said Brown.
In addition, the RYBC has worked with Mollie Burke and supported her summer arts project at Westgate Housing Community through her Art in Neighborhood organization, the Circus Arts Camp and the Therapeutic Horse Back Riding Camp.
To be eligible for funds, a child must be referred by an outside agency, such as a school or a health care provider.
By BOB AUDETTE, Reformer Staff, The Brattleboro Reformer