By Madeline Gardner
Wheelchairs 4 Kids, a nonprofit that helps physically disabled children in the Tampa Bay area, is holding its annual ‘Jail and Bail’ event on Friday, July 15 to raise money for its inclusion and flagship programs with help from members of the community. Hosted at Eddie V’s Prime Seafood in Tampa, participating local celebrities and business owners alike will role play as felons and criminals in a simulated arrest as they work to clear their name of silly crimes and free themselves by collecting enough bail money from families and friends.
“The whole atmosphere is really different and fun,” said Madeline Robinson, founder and executive director of Wheelchairs 4 Kids. “We have a good time with this.”
Before the event can take place, tables are taken down at Eddie V’s and a makeshift jail is built as felons arrive to receive their orange or striped jumpsuits and have their mugshots taken. Kids who have been helped by the charity in the past will take up posts as jury members with the owners of Gold & Diamond Source, Steve and Julie Weintraub, to assist them as honorary judges. Children are also presented with new equipment before the official fundraising begins as well.
“That really gets the felons pumped up and on their phones calling everybody they know,” said Robinson.
For those in the community unable to participate, the nonprofit went live on June 17 on its website to showcase the felons and their wanted posters alongside a donate button. Money raised by each criminal is measured on a thermometer next to their name and crime. After all calculations are complete, the felon with the most money raised and the felon with the most donors will each receive an award.
“The felons get a kick out of watching their thermometers, and each other’s,” said Robinson. “They do get competitive, that’s for sure.”
This year, the charity hopes to raise $150,000 to support its ‘Let’s Roll’ and ‘Wheely Fun Days’ programs built around providing children in need with wheelchairs and home/vehicle modifications as well as participation in activities such as water skiing, indoor skydiving and more at no charge to their families. After felons raised over $200,000 last year, the nonprofit is excited to call upon the community once more.
“I sit in awe of how dedicated and committed these people are to raising their funds. They’re obviously doing it for the kids and enjoying the difference being made,” said Robinson.
For more information on this event and Wheelchairs for Kids, visit wheelchairs4kids.org or contact 727-946-0963.