Category: blog

Parkland Strong isn’t merely a slogan

Parkland Strong isn’t merely a slogan

(To be featured in the April 2018 issue of the Sober World)

2.14.18. Wednesday. Valentine’s Day. A day that will forever be etched in our memory. It was a day that Parkland, our home for the past 18 years, lost its innocence. In a matter of minutes, beginning at 2:21pm, 17 innocent souls perished.
If only we could turn back the clock. You see, Parkland isn’t like any other town. It’s a rare piece of Americana that is disappearing across our country. It’s our few remaining bastions of suburban utopia where families gather to provide a haven for their children. It’s a community where neighbors greet each other. In fact, many of us know each other well, and care genuinely for our fellow residents. We often stop and say hello, whether it’s at our local dry cleaner’s, or the Starbucks on Hillsboro Blvd or the one on Coral Ridge Drive…just blocks away from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Tragically, it is now the infamous site where the shooting took place. When a deranged gunman opened fire on unsuspecting students and teachers that fateful day, he murdered not only 17 lives. He destroyed our Parkland.

Or did he? On that very evening after the shooting took place, our city immediately organized a vigil at the Parkland Amphitheater, led by community rabbis and lay leaders. More than 30,000 people showed up in a matter of hours! There were news agencies from all over the world covering the event. While tears and melancholy filled the air, we began to witness the resilient spirit of our town almost immediately. Scores of students, many of whom were hunkered down in classrooms just a few short hours before, came out to console their peers. Others arrived to pay respects and to mourn for the loss of their classmates. As if united by a divine calling, we witnessed the incredible solidarity of the students in attendance. Overnight, a movement in Parkland had begun. A movement that will cast far reaching effects upon the annals of our country’s history.

I’d witnessed the aftermaths of other mass shootings: Orlando, Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, even Columbine. But Parkland was different. Not because it took place in my home town. But there was an undeniable feeling in the air beginning on the eve of the vigil. Somehow, we all knew that the students of Stoneman Douglas and the city of Parkland would react differently to this act of atrocity. Undoubtedly, we were not going to let this tragedy go away lightly. Or ever.

The immediate days following the shooting saw our streets lined with protestors and activists, led mainly by vigilant students and angry parents. From Parkland to Coral Springs, from across America to the nation’s capital, the spirit of Parkland resonated loud and clear. While still grieving, many of us occupied ourselves with communal affairs. We called our neighbors and city officials asking how we can help. We simply wanted to do something. We all felt this was our way to heal.

Just a few weeks prior to the Stoneman Douglas tragedy, Spark of Hope launched our First Responders’ Recovery Program called the Cindi McCue Initiative which provide substance abuse treatment and mental health counseling services to our country’s Finest. It was named after a police officer that took her own life in 2015. We wanted to give back to those whom have dedicated their careers to serve and protect us. Many first responders often put their lives on the line witnessing unspeakable tragedies daily. We had no idea at the time that such a tragedy could hit so close to home. Since then, we’ve mobilized our First Responders’ campaign beyond the local communities and seek to nationalize it throughout the country, by the grace of G-d.

Spark of Hope is also an active player on the planning committee of the Broward County Mental Health Summit, alongside the Broward Sheriff’s Foundation and 2-1-1 Broward. Our mission is to promote mental health awareness and education throughout South Florida. Our inaugural event will take place on Wednesday September 12, 2018 featuring many supporters including FPL, Broward County VA, Broward Sheriff’s Office, Baptist Health and Wells Fargo. Additionally, Spark of Hope has set up complimentary mental health counseling services and trauma workshops, including Trauma Yoga therapy to those affected by the Parkland tragedy. We will continue to provide these services free of charge to anyone so long as there is a need. Moreover, Spark of Hope has dispatched our trained counselors and therapists to neighboring organizations such as 2-1-1 Broward, and to local schools, to provide the needed services to the many employees, volunteers and students that they so rightfully deserve. So long as Spark of Hope exists, we will endeavor to do more.

For in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” And through unconditional acts of love, Parkland will overcome, for we are indeed Parkland Strong!

Semper Fidelis,

David Lam
Spark of Hope

Spark of Hope joins Broward County Mental Health Summit’s Planning Committee

Spark of Hope joins Broward County Mental Health Summit’s Planning Committee

When a community comes together, there is nothing we cannot overcome. Prior to the tragedy in Parkland, a group of dedicated professionals from various backgrounds got together to address the importance of providing education and awareness on the topic of mental health.  Sadly, the recent school shooting at Stoneman Douglas has heightened the urgency of this endeavor.  There is never a greater need to address mental health promotion in our country.  Hence, the Broward County Mental Health Summit panel which includes local and national experts in the field of mental health and addiction will be launching our inaugural event on Wednesday September 12, 2018.  This is an unprecedented gathering where a myriad of candid topics surrounding mental health will be brought to light in layman’s terms for the community to learn and to understand.  More importantly, the goal of the Summit is to provide a forum to create proactive solutions as well as to eradicate the stigma associated with those desiring to seek help in treating mental health and substance use disorders.  The event falls on the national week of Suicide Prevention and covers mental health outreach, education and treatment assistance for the following populations: Youth, Law Enforcement, the Elderly, Veterans and Attorneys.
The following are a list of caring professionals and organizations that will play a vital role on the facilitation of the upcoming Summit:
  • 211 Broward
  • Broward Sheriff’s Office
  • Sheriff’s Foundation of Broward County
  • Baptist Health of South Florida
  • HANDY Inc.
  • Spark of Hope
  • Larel Media (inWeston Magazine)
  • Wells Fargo
  • Broward County Bar Association Hispanic Lawyers Committee
  • Florida Lawyers Assistance Program
  • Jewish Federation of Broward County
  • Vital Financial Group
  • Broward County Department of Veteran’s Affairs
  • Broward County VA Outpatient Clinic
  • Women in Distress
  • Hispanic Unity of Florida
  • FPL
  • Broward County Elderly and Veterans Services Division

The Broward County Mental Health Summit will take place on September 12, 2018 from 8:00am to 5:00pm at the Charles F. Dodge City Center in Pembroke Pines FL. Tickets can be purchased online prior to August 28, 2018 for $25 each.  No tickets will be sold at the door. The expected number of attendees range between 500-1,000 people so we highly encourage those desiring to attend this event to purchase their tickets in advance.
We hope this will be one of several events our panel will be launching in the near future to support mental health in Broward County and beyond. Our goal is to bring mental illness out from the shadows of secrecy and shame into the light of acceptance and accessibility for those seeking help.
Please help us by purchasing tickets to the event and by sharing this post!  For those interested in becoming a vital sponsor, please contact Spark of Hope at (954) 590-8363 or by visting #Parklandstrong #MSDstrong #Browardcountymentalhealthsummit
Caring for those whom care for others

Caring for those whom care for others


On Wednesday, February 28, 2018, exactly two weeks following the Stoneman Douglas tragedy in Parkland, the team at Spark of Hope sent our Hope Dealers to offer counseling help and yoga meditative workshops for the incredible folks at Broward 2-1-1.  This organization is the only 24/7 comprehensive agency in Broward county that provides individuals and families with all of the critical connections to health and human service agencies and programs they need. Everyday, trained and dedicated 2-1-1 counselors assist hundreds of individuals by providing support, information and referrals that will help them to access the right services.  Because of their tireless efforts, many of the county residents in search of critical social services such as emergency financial assistance, food, shelter, housing, child care, job training placement, relief from abuse, depression, summer/after school programs, healthcare or mental support has a place to go to.

According to the Director of Training and Development for 2-1-1, Billie Morgan, the amount of incoming calls to her agency following the aftermath of the Parkland tragedy has been staggering.  “After assisting callers with so much trauma regularly, we so need this”, said Billie, upon learning that our team will be on-site to care for her staff.


Parkland’s long time resident and Spark of Hope’s Trauma Yoga Instructor, Eileen Fruithandler conducted a trauma yoga session for the 2-1-1 staff on hand.  “We are all just trying to help…in our own way” said Eileen.  Ms. Fruithandler, like many others, have a personal attachment to Stoneman Douglas.  She is a substitute teacher at the school and has tutored one of the shooting victims.  “This has been such a tragic story…we need to bring more love into this world.”

We couldn’t agree more.  Thank you to Billie Morgan and Tracy Schuldiner at Broward 2-1-1 for allowing us the opportunity to bring a “spark” of hope and light to your wonderful staff.  #Parklandstrong #MSDstrong #broward211




How the Tragedy in Parkland affects us all

How the Tragedy in Parkland affects us all


Parkland is a small town.  For those that reside here, it is a piece of utopia.  A place of innocence and tranquility.

Tragically, on February 14, 2018, Valentine’s Day, the entire city of Parkland along with its surrounding communities were hit with a tragedy of unspeakable proportions.  A lone gunman marched into the halls of Stoneman Douglas High School and opened fire with his AR-15 on unsuspecting students and teachers killing 17 innocent souls.  Suddenly, our place of utopia turned into one of horror, panic, grief and mourning…

When our staff went to the Parkland Amphitheater, where an around the clock vigil site has been established, we didn’t know what to expect.  We’d all seen the events unfold on the news.  Some of us were at the school on the day of the shooting.  We all live close by.  Yet nothing can prepare us emotionally for the scene we were about to experience.  There was an overwhelming sadness and despair that enveloped the air.  Seeing students coming by the dozens, many of whom were in the same classrooms where their classmates were murdered, was utterly disturbing.  Letters, stuffed animals, flowers, Stars of David, wooden crosses and other religious artifacts lined the stage at the Amphitheater.  We could hear faintly the voices of the students retelling some of the events of that day.  Others were mourning over the loss of a friend, or several…so senselessly taken.  A question that kept resonating in our minds was, WHY? Why were these innocent lives so violently taken from us? Why were these pure souls made to suffer and pay the ultimate price while others were spared? Why was nothing being done when numerous complaints about the gunman and his brother were reported to the authorities weeks earlier? Why was a mental health stricken young individual, with a history of exhibiting violent behaviors, allowed to purchase an automatic weapon with the killing capacity of an AR-15? No one has the answers.  There was none that would ease our sorrow.

When unspeakable tragedy strikes a person, a family or a town, we could only focus upon the positives.  For only light can dispel a place of extreme darkness. There were plenty of positives from our observance on the Amphitheater visit.  We watched students helping one another cope with the tragedy, while others demanded changes from policy makers to school officials.  Few have seen the outpouring of passion and compassion comparable to those of the students of Stoneman Douglas.  We’ve heard their cries, as we’ve cried with them.  We’ve watched their matches, as we’ve stood alongside with them.  We’ve witnessed their action, as we couldn’t be more proud of them.  Indeed light has been dispatched following the aftermath of 2/14/18.

In the end, Parkland is still a small town.  It is still a piece of utopia.  For it is OUR town, and we will not stand by and allow the 17 sacred souls to die in vain.  #MSDSTRONG #PARKLANDSTRONG #STONEMANDOUGLAS #WELOVEPARKLAND