Jennifer Bate knows words matter. Before she was named Boca West Children’s Foundation’s executive director in July 2017, the non-profit was still answering to its original moniker, Boca West Foundation. She recommended they add a simple word, she knew, would have a profound effect.
“By putting ‘Children’s’ in there, it explains, right off the bat, who we are and what we do: We serve and work with kids,” she says. “That was a no-brainer.”
A new logo that graphically surmised the foundation’s mission was next on her agenda. “It’s five hands in different colors,” she says. “It’s fun and childlike and shows that we want to leave a positive mark on the lives of kids in our community.”
Seated at her desk at the foundation’s offices in north Boca Raton, Bate is going through April’s hectic events schedule, which includes two of its most popular fundraising celebrations: a shamble golf tournament and a children’s concert showcasing area bands and other local talent.
On April 1, it will host its seventh annual Golf Challenge at the Boca West Country Club with an après-golf cocktail party, dinner and a live auction. The Concert for the Children, featuring battle of the bands-style musical performances by tribute bands The Fab Four and Remember When Rock Was Young, follows the next day.
Proceeds from these events are pooled together with monies the organization collects from corporate sponsorships and contributions made to it throughout the year.
During the summer months, the foundation awards funding to its partner agencies that have applied for specific project grants. Projects have ranged from paying for a children’s backpack program to providing pediatric and dental care and summer camp experiences.
Since its inception in 2010, Boca West Children’s Foundation has distributed more than $6 million in aid to humanitarian efforts assisting at-risk children around Palm Beach County.
Bate credits her communications background for putting her in touch with her benevolent side. While majoring in journalism at the University of Florida, she worked as a reporter for local sports affiliates like ESPN and interviewed high school athletes with signing potential or university recruits. One of her favorite questions, “What’s the first thing you would do if you got drafted in the NFL?” often spawned a similar response.
“Most said they wanted to work hard to get to a better place so they could change their family’s living conditions and make them proud,” she recalls.
When asked if it was the reporting that pushed her into her philanthropic field, or if her passion derived from studying law at Stetson University (where she also served as president of the Student Bar Association), she smiles.
“I figured it out after some trial and error and knowing that other things in my life weren’t fulfilling me,” she says. “I took pieces of every experience until, ultimately, I figured out I wanted to lead an organization that helps people.’”
While each day hands her a new challenge, it’s rising up to meet it that makes it fun.
“There are kids who need meals and beds and have no place to go during the summers, and we send them to sleepaway camp,” she says. “We support foster care initiatives, including a human trafficking prevention program that I am passionate about. There are just so many needs. I think because we can meet some part of each one, that’s what makes me smile. It’s not just one thing, we can make an impact everywhere.”