Santa and his elves had a little extra help from Sebastian the Ibis and the University of Miami family Monday night. UM athletics personnel, including Athletic Director Blake James, men’s basketball head coach Jim Larrañaga, women’s tennis coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews, men’s tennis coach Mario Rincon, and several UM cheerleaders teamed with coaches’ wives and UM family volunteers to help underprivileged children shop for Christmas presents for their families at allCanes.
A record 37 children from the local Police Athletic League, the Boys & Girls Club, and the Bryan Pata Foundation were treated to pizza, crepes, cookies, and other goodies before Santa gave each of them an allCanes gift card loaded with $95. The amount was chosen, explained Edrick Pata of the Bryan Pata Foundation, to commemorate his brother Bryan, a slain UM football player who wore No. 95 during his UM career. Edrick, their mother Jeanette, and Bryan’s two sisters attended the shopping spree.
Former NBC 6 anchor and proud UM alumnus Tony Segreto, who participates in the event every year, emceed the evening. “My ties to UM will be forever, and [allCanes manager] Harry [Rothwell] is a dear friend, but it’s the cause, the looks on the kids’ faces, hearing who they want to shop for. It took a millisecond to say yes because it’s the right thing to do.”
Before the shopping started, Edrick Pata urged the kids to “excel in everything you do, academically, athletically, in whatever you do.”
A couple of the kids were able to shop with a genuine Miami Hurricane. DeMarcus Van Dyke, who played for the ’Canes through 2010, was in town and answered the allCanes call for volunteers. “We are family at Miami,” he said. “Anytime I’m needed, I’m there—whatever I can do to help the kids.”
Van Dyke said he was initially a little intimidated when he met Bryan Pata during his senior year of high school, but found him to be “the nicest guy in the world.”
Kelly James, wife of Blake James, joined other coaches’ wives, including Kelly Golden, Al Golden’s wife; Kenia Coley, offensive coordinator James Coley’s wife; Amber Carroll, wide receivers coordinator Brennan Carroll’s wife; Tawny Brown, linebackers coach Hurlie Brown’s wife; Shakeira Scott, tight ends coach Larry Brown’s wife; and Liz Larrañaga, Jim Larrañaga's wife, in helping the children pick presents for their families.
“It was awesome!” said Liz Larrañaga, who took part in the special night for the first time. “The children are respectful and so appreciative and it’s nice to see them smile. It’s always a good thing when everyone is smiling!”
Harry Rothwell, manager of allCanes, said the evening marked the 14th year that allCanes has given back to the community in this way. “Once people volunteer at this event, they keep doing it. It makes you feel good, and who doesn’t love that?”
To fund the festivities, allCanes absorbs some costs directly, sells $5 donation stockings, and involves corporate partners. This year, UHealth, Milam’s Supermarkets, Flanigan’s, The Big Cheese, and The Crepe Maker all contributed to the evening's success.