The 11th Annual United Way Women’s Leadership Breakfast was held at UM’s BankUnited Center on September 28, bringing together more than 1,000 of the most driven, influential women in the community to advance United Way of Miami-Dade’s work in education, financial stability, and health. International fashion icon Donna Karan delivered the keynote address at an event that included remarks by Congresswomen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
“Each and everyone of us has the power to help make the change that’s needed today,” said Karan, who, while still actively engaged in designing, channels much of her time and energy into her Urban Zen Foundation, which she started in 2007 to advance wellness, preserve cultures, and empower children.
Her message echoed many of the principles championed by the United Way, an organization focused on improving education, financial stability, and health.
“Unless we work united, the changes we’re working for won’t happen,” Karan said, urging members of the audience to help create change in schools and health care.
Her keynote address, delivered to Women Leadership members who have each made an annual gift of $1,000 or more to United Way, came as the University of Miami continued fundraising efforts as part of its United Way campaign, a annual drive that has raised more than $1 million for the past four years in a row.
During the breakfast, UM President Donna E. Shalala, who was honored at the event along with her mother, Edna, noted that one of the most important aspects of UM’s United Way campaign is its large participation rate. She praised UM employees for not only donating funds but also giving “generously of their time and heart.”
“It all comes back to us in one way or another,” President Shalala said at what turned out to be the largest Leadership Breakfast ever.
Breakfast attendees got the opportunity to hear firsthand just how much their United Way dollars have helped, listening to Danielle Cabo, a former runaway, explain how the organization has helped change her life.
“I wake up knowing that today I won’t be abused,” said Cabo, who plans to attend college.
Breakfast co-chairs Susan Miller, a UM trustee, and her daughter, Leslie Miller Saiontz, also spoke at the event, as did Congresswomen Ros-Lehtinen, a UM alumna, and Wasserman-Schultz.
Ros-Lehtinen said that as more and more social services are cut, “we depend on people like you and organizations like United Way to fill in the gaps.”
Wasserman-Schultz asked those in attendance to think about what they could do to improve the lives of children. “The United Way thinks about that every day,” she said.