For Wellington residents Gil and Jennifer Martinez, supporting the nonprofit organization Clinics Can Help (CCH) and its upcoming sixth annual Golf Classic on April 26 at the Wellington National Golf Club has become a family affair.
The tournament will benefit CCH’s Kinder Project, which provides free medical equipment and supplies to families with children who have special needs and serious medical conditions.
Little did Gil and Jennifer know when they first got involved with the local nonprofit that it would someday help two members of their own family and engage the entire Martinez clan, including Gil’s father, retired Major League Baseball player Dennis Martinez.
Jennifer first met Owen O’Neill, the founder and CEO of Clinics Can Help, when both worked at Hospice of Palm Beach County in the early 2000s. Jennifer worked in communications, and Owen served as a registered nurse.
It was while Owen was providing end-of-life care that the spark of an idea for Clinics Can Help first ignited. He became keenly aware of the painful reminder home medical equipment represented to families after a loved one had passed. To alleviate his clients’ distress and help them unload the equipment that no one else would take, Owen began hauling hospital beds, wheelchairs and nebulizers in his pickup truck and storing them in his garage.
He quickly discovered that the items were a godsend to local clinics for the underserved. Their clients needed medical equipment for at-home care but were uninsured and could not afford to buy them on their own. Soon, word got out about the hospice nurse offering free equipment, and demand skyrocketed. Owen realized he had uncovered a significant unmet need in Palm Beach County. By 2005, he saw the opportunity to help thousands of people by turning his idea into a charity called Clinics Can Help.
Thanks to funding from local foundations and donors, Clinics Can Help has grown and expanded to a 5,000-square-foot facility in West Palm Beach and six staff members. In the last 10 years, the agency has helped 10,120 clients and donated more than $5 million worth of medical equipment and supplies. In Wellington alone, 343 children and adults have received medical equipment and supplies during the last five years.
Clinics Can Help is the only organization of its kind in Florida and one of the largest in the U.S. providing free durable medical equipment to help people with mobility challenges.
Jennifer, now the president of her own PR firm, JLM Communications, has supported Owen every step of the way by helping him share CCH’s story with the community. She never thought she and Gil would someday turn to the charity to help their own family.
In 2011, their nephew Sebastian suffered a devastating spinal stroke at the age of two that left him partially paralyzed from the waist down. Gil’s brother Dennis and his wife Maritza did everything they could for their little boy. A long-awaited visit to Shriners Hospital for Children finally became a reality, but a wheelchair would help Sebastian’s trip tremendously.
That’s when CCH sprung to action. They provided a wheelchair that was perfect for Sebastian’s needs, tailored for his size and capabilities. To Gil and his family, the wheelchair represented so much more than a piece of equipment — it meant hope, dignity and more independence for Sebastian.
“Remembering some of Sebastian’s challenges, it boosted his confidence and mental state — it affected all of us,” Gil said. “He’s 10 now, and to see his excitement about having his own wheelchair blew me away. He has such great spirit.”
The impact that CCH had on Sebastian drew Gil into becoming an active volunteer as a member of the golf tournament committee. His other family members have all supported the event, helping it raise more than $100,000 over the last five years. But it was Gil’s father who added to the celebrity element that golf great Dana Quigley had created. By attending and bringing along other pros, including fellow Venezuelan player Andrés Galarraga, they were helping to generate added awareness and funds to support the grassroots organization.
“My dad is a huge advocate for kids, education and sports,” Gil said. “Any time he has the opportunity to help, he’s all for it. After seeing what CCH did for Sebastian, he’s even more grateful to be involved.”
Gil is excited to bring the tournament to his hometown of Wellington for the first time. He sees the course as a major driver for attendance and funding because of its exclusivity, course design by the legendary Johnny Miller, and its ranking as one of the nation’s Top 75 Private Golf Courses by Golf Digest.
Also sure to draw attention and players is CBS 12 morning anchor Matt Lincoln, who is serving as this year’s event chair, and longtime CCH supporter Quigley, who is serving as honorary chair. The tournament features a 1 p.m. shotgun start, prizes for closest to the pin, longest drive, a putting contest and hole in one. Following the game, players and attendees are invited to enjoy delicious food, a silent auction and an awards ceremony.
“We have great leaders at the helm of this year’s annual Golf Classic,” Owen said. “Our committee and our new location at Wellington National have put our tournament on the map. We expect to have a very successful event to raise funds for the children of our community.”
More than 6,200 children in Palm Beach County live with special needs, and that doesn’t include those who are stricken with a serious illness or are involved in accidents. With his prior training as a nurse, Owen understands just how important the right medical equipment is to help a child improve mobility.
“Items like adaptive strollers can make all the difference in allowing a child with cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy the chance to ride the bus, see his classmates at eye level and participate in schoolyard activities,” Owen said. “We believe that no matter what their abilities, kids should be able to just be kids.”
The Clinics Can Help sixth annual Golf Classic will be held at the Wellington National Golf Club (400 Binks Forest Drive, Wellington) on Friday, April 26 with a 1 p.m. shotgun start. For more information, call (561) 640-2995 or visit www.clinicscanhelp.org.