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Palm Beach puts philanthropic twist in 'Shark Tank'-like event for kids

By Dian Vujovich

Evan Deoul

Michael Kohner

If you're like millions of Americans, watching Shark Tank has become a regular family event. And if you're lucky enough to have a child or two with a creative mind and philanthropic spirit who enjoys that show as well, here's a chance for them to move their ideas from the drawing board into reality.

Philanthropy and collaboration are the driving forces behind the Palm Beach Philanthropy Tank (PBP Tank). The program brings together three educational and philanthropic organizations, the Community Foundation, the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County and Advisors for Philanthropic Impact (API) and is co-chaired by API members Evan Deoul and Michael Kohner.

"Mike and I were trying to figure out what our next initative in youth philanthropy should be and we are both fans of the show Shark Tank, know it kind of has a great cultural buzz to it, and thought (adapting) it would be a chance to make it local, relevant, impactful and fun for students in our area," said Deoul, AB Bernstein's senior managing director.

Students, in seventh through 12th grades, who live in Palm Beach County can submit applications until Dec. 15 at API's website, advisors4impact.org. Finalists will be chosen in January and the final event is in March. There's a grand total of $100,000 to be awarded.

Kohner, managing director of Andersen Tax, brings to the table some personal experience as his own three children started a not-for-profit organization when they were in high school. As a result, he has seen firsthand the positive results of what can happen when creative young minds are coupled with community and philanthropic purpose.

One of the PBP Tank's philanthropists, William Meyer, has seen that as well. Last year, when Meyer was chairman of the Quantum Foundation, the organization hosted a weekend hackathon that brought high school students together with the goal of solving a community problem. Any problem. It was the success of that hackathon that made his decision to participate in the PBP Tank a no-brainer.

"What made me so excited about PBP Tank is that in one weekend they (the participating high school students) came up with an app that basically connected restaurants and hotels in Palm Beach County with the food bank," Meyer said. " The restaurants and hotels using this app would notify the food bank when they had excess food that they would otherwise throw out. Then the food bank would arrange through Uber to pick up and deliver the food to the food bank."

The idea was so well-received the Quantum Foundation is helping to fund it. So when Meyer was asked by Deoul to participate in the PBP Tank, he not only said yes but also contributed $25,000 to become one of the program's shark philanthropists and mentors.

It's not just about the money

Each of the four PBP Tank philanthropists have committed money, $25,000 a piece, and time to the event. They are Palm Beachers Meyer, Danielle Moore, who is on the Town Council, and Julie Fisher Cummings and Eric Becker, of Jupiter.

Each PBP Tank winner can receive up to $10,000 of funding for their project from the philanthropists. Each winner will be given one-on-one mentoring.

Winners can expect to attend regular meetings with their mentors. Plus, via their mentorship, each student will learn the reality of what it takes to actually achieve their goal.

"Sometimes young people don't realize the process of first you have to crawl before you walk and walk before you can run," said Meyer.

Cummings currently teaches at both the University of Miami and Columbia University. Her focus at Miami includes public health issues, and at Columbia, the evolving role of philanthropy to solve social problems. She believes community service is "the great leveler of society."

"I call it compassion training and believe that it (community service) is really helping our youth to know that they can make a difference in the world," Cummings said. " Doing service, and not even extensive service, is very empowering to our youth and it's also something that needs to be instilled in them."

With that in mind, Cummings has two words of advice to students who wish to participate in Palm Beach Philanthropy Tank event: "Dream big!"

How students can apply

Applications are being accepted now through Dec. 15 from all students in grades seven through 12 who wish to participate in the Palm Beach Philanthropy Tank event.

Submissions are open to Palm Beach County students in public, private, home school or youth members of clubs and organizations. Individual winners will receive up to $10,000 for the project along with personal mentoring.

Proposed projects should directly address Palm Beach County issues. Judging criteria are based upon the following: Community impact; program feasibility; solution creativity; sustainability; and team strengths.

Finalists will be selected by Jan. 30 and the final event is in March at the Harriet Himmel Theater at CityPlace.

For more information and to download an application, visit advisors4impact.org


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