Game Changers

Generosity transforms charities and the lives of those they serve

(page 1 of 4)

courtesy DCWAF / Steven Mangum

The spirit of giving enlivens the Emerald Coast as evidenced by the many individuals and businesses that contribute to the success of fundraising events including the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation.


What would you do if you hit the jackpot? Many of us can only dream of holding a winning lottery ticket. But thanks to Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation (DCWAF) and IMPACT 100 Northwest Florida, Inc., two 501(c) (3) nonprofit organizations dedicated to serving the Emerald Coast, 22 local charities are indeed winners. Meaning, they collectively have received more than $14 million since 2005. In 2016, 90 percent of the charity finalists received six-figure checks. 

For this story, we took a look at the impact of major cash gifts on our community. After meeting with several local charities on both the giving and receiving ends, common threads emerged — the vetting processes are stringent, the selected charities all are deserving, the funds are being put to good use and, not surprisingly, the influx of big dollars has indelibly transformed these charities and the lives of those they serve in meaningful ways. Aside from funding, a rewarding side benefit has been the formation of mutually beneficial partnerships among many of the finalist charities. In short, DCWAF and IMPACT 100 are “charity game-changers.” 

There are many more stories of deserving charities and causes than we possibly have space to share on our pages, here, and we will share some of those stories in coming editions. But, for now, we take a closer look at one particular teen to find out what happens after you earn a “golden ticket.” Here is his story: 


AMIkids Emerald Coast — Bryan’s Story

Courtesy AMIKids

Bryan Deans is often seen wheeling around Fort Walton Beach on his bright green bicycle generously given to him by a member of IMPACT 100. It’s his sole means of transportation around town and to his job. 

You may have seen him pedaling rain or shine on a bright lime-green bicycle to his summer job at a restaurant on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach. At a glance, he may appear to be just any ordinary teen whizzing by. But if you ask this particular 17-year-old, he will gladly tell you he is on his way to fulfilling his dreams. 

Unlike many teens, for Bryan Deans, landing and keeping a job isn’t for pocket money. It is a matter of surviving in the world. A job means an eviction notice won’t be posted on his family’s apartment door. A job means there will be food on the table this week. A job means he finally has a grasp on the keys to freedom. It means he has the means to begin to unlock his potential. 
And moving forward is important for someone who was once stuck.

Deans was making poor choices that got him in trouble. He was court ordered to AMIkids Emerald Coast, a day treatment facility located in a two-story house on a tree-lined street in Fort Walton Beach. For many “at-risk” youth, it’s considered “the last stop.” 

For Deans, it was a “blessing,” because the 12-member staff at AMIkids did one thing no one else had done. They believed in him. They surrounded him with support, gave him structure, enrolled him in educational programs and today, he finally sees what they saw from the start — his potential for a bright future. 

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