Twelve years ago Maria Seelman was looking for a local organization where she could make a real difference. She had a passion for giving back but didn’t want to just write a check. After she was introduced to the Children’s Home Society of Florida by a friend who was on the organization’s board, she knew she had found the right place to help.

“I love the work they do here,” Maria said. “I love children; they don’t have a voice, and I’m in a position that I can help.”

Children’s Home Society of Florida programs provide counseling, residential care and parent education programs to break the generational cycle of abuse and neglect in more families. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to changing and improving the lives of abused and neglected children and is one of Maria’s biggest passions.

She decided to host a fundraising event, the first one was a success, raising almost $60,000. That was eight years and $650,000 ago. As the founder, she has also remained the chairwoman for Portraits of Possibilities, the fundraiser that has evolved each year with a new theme. The event was hosted at Maria and her husband, Dr. Robert Seelman’s home for the first several years before popularity grew so much that an even larger venue was required. Thanks to her leadership role, the money raised has helped more than 4,000 children and families in Brevard. The money stays in the county for Children’s Home Society of Florida local programs including Hacienda Girls Ranch and transitional living program.

The Hacienda Girls Ranch is a safe haven for teen girls in foster care struggling to cope with their losses and traumas from abuse and neglect. The girls, ages 12 to 17, receive educational support, counseling, recreational opportunities, guidance and direction on how to live independently. As Children’s Home Society of Florida helps the girls heal from past traumas, they guide them toward futures of positive decision-making and opportunities to thrive. Some will be able to return home safely, others may find a “forever family” through adoption. Yet most will leave Hacienda Girls Ranch at 18 to begin life on their own.

On their 18th birthdays, Florida considers them legal adults, responsible for every aspect of their well-being. Not many people are ready for life on their own the day they turn 18, especially teens who’ve spent the past several years in foster care; many face homelessness before they’re 20. So Children’s Home Society of Florida offers transitional living, which provides a safe, stable place for young women to live while they complete their education and begin pursuing careers. The women are expected to pay for food, clothing and essentials. Those not in a position to pay are given job counseling and transportation. If they’re not working or in school, they are required to do volunteer work.

This year’s Portraits of Possibilities “An Evening in Ireland” will have Irish steppers and other live entertainment. Irish specialty drinks, whiskey tasting, putting contest, live and silent auctions will keep guests entertained as well. Pub style food including corn beef and cabbage, porter’s fish and chips, Dublin’s banger and mash and shepherd’s pie will be served. The event is expected to have 300 attendees.

8th Annual Portraits of Possibilities

“An Evening in Ireland” 

March 14, 6 p.m.
Eau Gallie Civic Center in Melbourne

Individual tickets to the event are $150.  Sponsorships begin at $500. 

This article appears in the March 2015 issue of SpaceCoast Living.
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