The Dee Wheeler Children’s Fund
Friends of Boca Grande Community Center is dedicated to one of the organizations founders, Dee Wheeler. Not many of us realize how many of these programs began with Dee’s impetus and support. Dee began one of the best summer camps in the state of Florida with its arts and crafts programs, swimming lessons, educational programs, and its musical presentations. It came about because there were, according to Dee, “lots of kids around with nothing to do in the summer.”
Dee’s favorite projects, the Halloween Carnival was a school event until the school closed in 1963. Dee revived it in 1975 and it is still popular today, with islanders and visitors alike. Another of her “firsts” was the Munchkin program which begun, like so many of the center’s programs, because of a need that existed, in this case, for parents of preschoolers.
Dee, along with island families, and with the support from Lee County, started many programs and activities at the center, such as the After School Program, Easter Egg Hunt, Bike Parade, etc.
In 1986, a new update was ushered in with the help of Dee. Nina and Arthur Houghton, Dee Wheeler, and a Reference Room Committee, began work to get a Reference Room equipped with library tables, books, the O.E.D, encyclopedias, magazines, and a comfortable setting, as a place for island children to do their homework. It turned out to be a valued resource to all. In 1991, the Arthur Houghton Reference Room was dedicated. Today, while the Reference room materials have moved to the Johann Fust Library, the Houghton room is still a valued space for programming at the Community Center.
The Friends of Boca Grande Community Center was formed to supplement the Lee County Programs and to offer additional programs and activities. Today Friends of Boca Grande and Lee County Parks and Rec still carry on many of the programs and activities that Dee Wheeler began. The Multi-Purpose Room, where the island children and summer campers spend much of their time, is dedicated in her honor.
Today Friends of Boca Grande and Lee County Parks and Rec still carry on many of the programs and activities that Dee Wheeler began, one being the summer camp program. As hard as it is to believe, there are children and families on this island who cannot financially afford to participate.
In honor of Dee’s wishes, the Friends of Boca Grande Community Center established the Dee Wheeler Children’s Fund. This summer, thanks to your generous contributions, the fund provided 63 weeks of camp at no cost to parents that either live or work on Gasparilla Island.
A gift of $75 can make a huge difference in a child’s life. Please consider making a donation to this worthwhile program, and continue to help those children who would not be able to participate if not for the Dee Wheeler Children’s Fund.