Saturday, January 21  *  Pine Trails Park - Parkland, FL

In This Issue

With the holiday season upon us, and another amazing year coming to a close, so many begin counting down; whether it be for gifts, for vacation time, or for the end of 2016 and the beginning of a new year.
With this in mind, all of us at the Jason Taylor Foundation are counting down as well, but in our own special way. We feel it is only fitting to share our countdown with each of you, because it is your generosity, love and support that has allowed us to accomplish each and every item that appears on our list. Of course it wouldn't be a Jason Taylor Foundation countdown unless it began with...

New Year's Day will mark the 5th anniversary of Jason having brought his spectacular 15 year NFL career to a close as he was carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates following the Dolphins season-ending 19-17 victory over their rival NY Jets on January 1, 2012. Jason is now in his first year of eligibility for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and at the time of this newsletter's publication, he is one of 26 semifinalists remaining from an initial list of 94 modern-era nominees. Jason so famously wore jersey number 99 throughout the entirety of this career with the Miami Dolphins. Of the 303 individuals currently enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, only three of them also wore number 99. We think they are due for another!

Each December, the Jason Taylor Foundation pays a special visit to Holtz Children's Hospital to deliver gifts to the brave young patients who spend their holidays under the care and supervision of the amazing medical staff and Child Life Specialists at Holtz. The JTF staff works directly with the hospital's Child Life team before hand picking each and every gift that is distributed. On December 20, JTF Executive Director Seth Levit, Director of Operations Sean Todd, and Operations Intern Ashley Brooks handed out more than 80 gifts to pediatric patients in oncology, bone marrow, dialysis and rehabilitation units. 
According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 75% - 80% of children and youth in need of mental health services do not receive them. As part of Mental Health Awareness Month in May, the JTF's Omari Hardwick bluapple Poetry Network collaborated with OCP2 and the United Way of Broward County to create a message of awareness, mental health needs, empowerment and hope for youth. Trinity Mitchell, a bluapple poet from Western High School, wrote and performed an original poem for this powerful PSA.

On September 5, Jason celebrated Labor Day by hosting 60 deserving children from Miami-Dade and Broward Counties to his 12th annual "Cool Gear for the School Year" event at the Old Navy location in Davie. Each student was allotted $300 and, with the assistance of a local celebrity, had one hour to conduct their school shopping. Since first launching this program in 2005, the Jason Taylor Foundation has given out nearly $225,000 in clothing to more than 750 deserving young people.
As the 2016 Louder Than A Bomb Florida Festival presented by Nova Southeastern University and UPS came to a close, Jason decided that rather than just sending just the winning team from Boca Raton Community High School to join the Young Chicago Authors at their annual "Write to the City" summer writing institute, he wanted all 40 team finals poets to travel to Chicago and learn from the experience. Thanks to the generosity of JTF friends like Paul Abbott, Ultimate Software, Jessica Goldman, Steven Douglas Associates and others, the Foundation was able to adjust its traveling party from 13 to 48 to provide this transformational experience. In July, the group journeyed to the Windy City and spent an entire week on the campus of University of Illinois at Chicago along side students from Chicago, Tulsa and Toronto, fully immersed in this workshop series exploring hip-hop poetics, the traditions of Chicago realist working class portraiture and contemporary visual art practice.

In June, the JTF proudly saw four more of it's Jason Taylor Scholars graduate high school prepared to embark upon the next leg of their academic journey. Stephon Smith and Jarah Prato of Broward County, David Dorceus of Palm Beach County and Jayvon Rickets of Miami-Dade each completed the requirements of their Take Stock in Children contract in which they agreed to stay in school, maintain good grades, exhibit good behavior, remain crime and drug free, meet with a mentor once a week and attend Take Stock workshops and events. To date, the Jason Taylor Foundation has sent 30 students to college through this partnership with the scholarship and mentorship provider.
One of the JTF's signature events celebrated a lucky birthday as Jason hosted his 13th annual JT's Ping-Pong Smash on November 7, bringing the original, celebrity, doubles table tennis event back to Hard Rock Live at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Taylor, joined by Dolphins Pro Bowl center, Mike Pouncey for the second straight year, enjoyed the continued support of long-time partners like Publix, Hooters, UPS and so many others, while also welcoming some new friends, beginning with CHG Healthcare, who generously served as the event's Title Partner. The healthcare staffing provider was ready for the Smash as more than 100 of its associates from South Florida divisions including Weatherby Healthcare and CompHealth flooded the arena to cheer on all involved, particularly some of their very talented participants. In fact, CHG's own Jared Rosetti teamed with Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso to capture the coveted JT's Ping-Pong Smash championship belts, while another CHG associate, Anthony Romano, partnered with Pouncey to finish third. 
On September 29, the JTF and its Omari Hardwick bluapple Poetry Network partnered with youth activist and award-winning filmmaker, Erahm Christopher, to host an eye-opening community event highlighting the importance of the mental health of our youth and listening to the voices of young people. The event centered on an exclusive screening of LISTEN, Christopher's debut feature film. Students and administrators representing 10 schools and youth groups visited Savor Cinema in Ft. Lauderdale and were treated not only to the powerful film, but also to original spoken word performances by teen poets within the bluapple Poetry Network and a courageous and interactive conversation facilitated by Christopher and Darius Daughtry, Director of bluapple programs. LISTEN was not only well received by the students in attendance, but administrators and district officials were so moved that Broward County Schools Office of School Performance & Accountability will be partnering with Student Support Initiatives and the JTF to host four more important screenings in 2017.
On the 4th Friday of every month, the Jason Taylor Foundation hosts a teen open mic night, named the VoiceBox, as part of the regular programming of the Omari Hardwick bluapple Poetry Network. Held at ArtServe in Fort Lauderdale, the VoiceBox continually inspires, motivates and empowers young people across the tri-county area and enables students to continue to passionately develop and share their voice in an open and inviting environment. On Friday, December 23rd, the VoiceBox held it's first-ever Louder Than A Bomb Florida reunion. The packed house, special edition event was coordinated and produced by bluapple Poetry Network assistant, Marnino Toussaint, and featured the top 4 placing LTABFLA Indy finalists, Miami Norland Senior HS alumnus, Andrew Ruby, Alex Martinez of Miramar HS, Fort Pierce Central HS alumnus, Lafayette Ashley, and 2016 Indy Champion, Desiray Baptiste, a Miramar HS alumnus, each of whom performed a series of original poems much to the delight of the crowd. The evening also saw the presentation of the 2nd annual South Florida Youth Poet Laureate. Naz Hussein of Cypress Bay HS edged out co-finalists Ellie Gomero of Miami Arts Charter and Samantha Maughan of Boca Raton Community HS.  Ms. Hussein will represent the bluapple Poetry Network and the Jason Taylor Foundation during appearances across South Florida and will have the opportunity to have her original writing published as part of a book deal courtesy of JTF partner Urban Word.
The Jason Taylor Foundation and Homestead-Miami Speedway expanded upon an innovative partnership commenced in 2015 with the launching of the "Write Track Poetry" competition. This school year, JTF and the Speedway kicked off the competition with poetry themed pep rallies within 3 Miami-Dade middle schools. Poets from the JTF's Omari Hardwick bluapple Poetry Network visited Arthur and Polly Mays Conservatory of the Arts, Richmond Heights Middle School and Hammock Middle School in September, entertaining and inspiring more than a thousand students while challenging them to write an original poem based on the theme, "What Does it Mean to be a Champion?" The winning piece was submitted by Paolo Casti, an 8th grade student at Arthur and Polly Mays Conservatory of the Arts. Paolo was honored prior to the Ford EcoBoost 300 XFINITY Series championship race and will have a chance to perform during the Louder Than A Bomb Florida festival in 2017. To highlight this partnership, bluapple poet ambassadors Marnino Toussaint and Alejandro Acosta teamed with Homestead-Miami Speedway intern Austin Wade to celebrate the Speedway's Championship race. 

Now in it's 10th year, the Jason Taylor Reading Room presented by Steven Douglas Associates features 2 locations, including it's long-time home at the Miramar Youth Enrichment Center, as well as the ever-growing Learning Center located within New Renaissance Middle School, also in the City of Miramar. Students continue to be navigated through a rotating academic focus calendar with assistance from a full-time Educational Director, certified teachers and teachers' aids, while also enjoying extracurricular activities including, most recently, the JT's Ping-Pong Smash Kids Clinic. Just recently, students and faculty from both locations enjoyed their year-end holiday party. Classes will begin again in at the Reading Room and Learning Center beginning in January. 
While it is said time and time again, we believe strongly in the age old adage that it only takes 1 person to make a difference in the life of a child. Examples of this come before us each and every day. Whether it's Jason taking the initiative and making the commitment to start our organization 12 years ago, Sara Pierce, the wonderful Hollywood Hills High School poetry club teacher who welcomed a student to live with her family after his family lost their home, the UPS preloader who donates 1 dollar a week from his part time paycheck, Dru Nickson, the former Jason Taylor youth football camper who continues to donate $100 a year from his allowance to help others, the anonymous donor in Virginia who annually sends us a $25 money order, or the countless others, including YOU, who support us in some way, it all makes a difference. We simply could not carry out our mission without you.  
There is still time to make your 2016 year-end tax deductible contribution to the Jason Taylor Foundation. CLICK HERE to do so now.

May this New Year bring you a peace-filled life, warmth and togetherness in your family, and much prosperity. Happy New Year from our family to yours!