John and Tina Dowd, co-founders and owners of Sundance Vacations, a wholesale vacation company headquartered in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, are firm believers in the concept of “paying it forward” which, in essence, is giving back to the community.
For their outstanding efforts in giving back through various charitable endeavors, the Dowds were honored as “outstanding philanthropists” on Friday, November 21, at the Woodlands Inn & Resort in Wilkes-Barre. The event is being held in conjunction with National Philanthropy Day and is sponsored by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).
The Dowds were nominated for the award by Wyoming Seminary and the Luzerne Foundation. By virtue of their ongoing charitable efforts, the Dowds truly epitomize the motto of the AFP, which is “Change the world with a giving heart.”
The Philanthropy Day awards’ luncheon also honored five other organizations and individuals. Other honorees included Leo Vergnetti, outstanding volunteer fundraiser; Larry Pellegrini, outstanding fundraising professional; the Luzerne Foundation Youth Advisory Committee, outstanding youth and philanthropy award; Unico Scranton Foundation, outstanding foundation, and Cabot Oil and Gas Corp., outstanding corporation.
As a testament to being named “outstanding philanthropists,” the Dowds’ donations to charities are as varied as the myriad of vacation destinations Sundance offers to its clients.
Among the charities the Dowds have contributed to in 2014 are Volunteers of America’s Magnolia Project, Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails, the Children’s Service Center and the American Cancer Society to name a few.
On behalf of Sundance Vacations, the Dowds donated $7,500 to the VOA’s Magnolia Project. This program provides mentoring services for young, at-risk girls in ninth through 12th grades during their pivotal adolescent years as they navigate through the social intricacies of life.
The Children’s Service Center (CSC), 335 S. Franklin St., Wilkes-Barre, received a $2,000 donation on behalf of the Dowds. The CSC cares for children and adolescents with mental, emotional and behavioral health issues. Through the various programs administered by the CSC, these children and adolescents are helped to lead healthier, happier lives.
The Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails program also received $2,000 from the Dowds and Sundance Vacations. The Rails to Trails project offers four miles of trails, which are free for the public to utilize. The trails feature picnic benches, exercise stations and an environmental education area. The donation was used to offset the cost of providing bicycle helmets for children from needy families, a program that is conducted every year.
During the summer, there was an on-site fundraising event to benefit the American Cancer Society at the Wilkes-Barre headquarters of Sundance Vacations. The featured attraction at the fundraising event was the dunk tank.
Dayshift telephone service representatives earned the right to try to dunk their manager, Ben Uzialko, with proceeds going to the American Cancer Society. Other members of the management staff joined Uzialko by also taking a seat on the dunk tank. More than $1,000 was raised during the event and yes, Uzialko did spend a lot of time in the chilly waters that day.
Currently, several Sundance offices are conducting food drives to help needy families during the upcoming holidays. The Sundance family also conducts winter coat and glove drives for financially strapped families.
“My husband, John, and I are honored to be named outstanding philanthropists by the AFP,” Tina Dowd emphasized. “We are humbled to receive such a prestigious award. More importantly, we take great pride in the fact we have the wherewithal to be able give back to the community. Our charitable efforts come from the heart and we feel it is an honor to contribute to such worthy causes.”
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