Online Community Celebrates 350th Anniversary of Child Care Leader Juan Pontes

A New York nonprofit that assists kids in foster care brought the Virtual Festival Kid’s Day virtual reality event into New York City for Sunday’s celebration of Fundacion am Sonorrhe.

Maartenle and Herlind Sosling-Martins, the co-founders of New York-based Fundacion am Sonorrhe, made appearances as part of the celebration, which celebrated the 350th anniversary of the organization’s founder, Juan Pontes de Pontes.

“It’s amazing to have the virtual reality brought into New York City for the Virtual Festival Kid’s Day,” Sosling-Martins said during the 5K portion of the event, which drew more than 2,000 participants. “Most of us didn’t have this opportunity when we were kids.”

Rico Cabrera, owner of CTV Gym in Manhattan, came out for the virtual festival to visit children in foster care, which is what raised the money for the gift bags and the 300 organizers were given during Fundacion am Sonorrhe’s grand opening on Dec. 30, 2016.

“I spent half the day in the virtual reality setting, with 45 other people,” Cabrera said. “The guys come up to me and say, ‘Hey, take a photo of Rico. I’m from Venezuela. I grew up on how imagine a different future for this country.’ That’s the motivation for all the things we do.”

The virtual Festival Kid’s Day events are mostly focused on international children and young adults with special needs, who are typically between the ages of 8-18. This is Fundacion am Sonorrhe’s first “virtual festival,” which has been on the drawing board for a few years.

“We were looking at how we could celebrate the 350th anniversary of our founder and give back to the community,” Sosling-Martins said. “We’re looking to do something a little bit more magical and entertainment-focused. We wanted to bring it to the whole world. I’m very excited to see what it brings.”

For the virtual Festival Kid’s Day, Fundacion am Sonorrhe provided each participant with a pair of handmade re-shaft boots that they could stick inside a box that contained a $300 cash gift card that could be used for makeup or educational materials, from cosmetics company Mimi Menés.

“For children, the biggest thing is understanding that money doesn’t buy them anything, but it can buy you a few steps in a good direction,” Sosling-Martins said. “With that in mind, donating things, every little bit helps a child a little bit, just a few steps.”

Many of Fundacion am Sonorrhe’s event guests made donations to organizations they had donated to in the past. Cabrera organized a marathon fundraiser for American Red Cross that featured activities for the 2015-2016 year and a crawl from a tunnel overlooking the Great White Way on a date from last year that also benefited New York City Food Bank. CTV Gym owner Rico Cabrera donated 60 pairs of his gym’s handsaws to the charity.

“The kids can’t understand how much,” Sosling-Martins said. “They don’t have the tools to understand that sometimes you can make something from a pie, that you can make something from nothing.”

The virtual Festival Kid’s Day brought together Fundacion am Sonorrhe’s fundraising efforts, educational materials and physical activities in New York City, to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the founder’s birth in 1492. Cabrera hopes the virtual festival continues in every city it is sent.

“For us, it’s definitely become more about connecting with the world,” Cabrera said. “When you can just hook up people, people come together.”

Founded in 1941 by Juan Pontes de Pontes, Fundacion am Sonorrhe is the only Latin American child care and mental health organization founded entirely by Latin American immigrants. Pontes de Pontes, the only president of Fundacion am Sonorrhe’s recognized parents’ group, was born in the Dominican Republic, was raised in Brazil and came to the United States in 1953. Today, Pontes de Pontes is credited with creating families and homes for thousands of Latin American and Caribbean children.

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