By Kathy L. Collins

SylviaThomaslogoMelinda White, a long-time resident of the Greater Brandon area, was recently crowned Princess of Brandon for her efforts in raising over $6,000 for the Sylvia Thomas Center, a local non-profit that provides adoptive and foster children and families tools and support needed to bond and thrive. This organization has helped thousands of adoptive and foster families put the “forever” in “forever families.”

The Sylvia Thomas Center has held the Royal Highness Race for several years. This year’s race was successful with three candidates raising over $11,000. In addition to White, the other candidates included Diane Jimenez, who raised over $4,000 and Denise Morejon, who raised over $600.

In her acceptance speech, White said, “We are all winners tonight because we are able to give to the Sylvia Thomas Center.”

Pearl Chiarenza, owner of Bodyworks Health and Wellness Center, was the event chair. Chiarenza is also the Vice Chair of the Sylvia Thomas Center’s Board of Directors.

Chiarenza said, “As an adoptive mom myself, I know the struggles faced by our adopted children and families. It is so heartwarming to see three busy working women spend a month raising money to help others.”

The Coronation Ceremony was held on Monday, April 14 at The Loft Event Lounge located at 709 W. Lumsden Rd. in Brandon. Attendees not only had a great time decorating their own tables and enjoying a feast fit for royalty, but they got the chance to hear firsthand from a local adoptive mother who credits the Sylvia Thomas Center with fulfilling her dream of becoming an adoptive parent.

Amy Pacheco said, “I can tell you that my child would not be a part of our family without the Sylvia Thomas Center. Today, my child is fully bonded and no longer aggressive. This would not have happened without the Sylvia Thomas Center. They gave us a behaviorialist and interns to help my child bond. They are also a resource for practical advice.”

The Sylvia Thomas Center, located at 500 Lithia Pinecrest Rd. in Brandon, was founded in 2000. Since its inception, it has had a 99 percent success rate in keeping the “forever” in “forever families.”

For more information, visit or call 651-3150.

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