Marile and Jorge Luis Lopez may have only established their eponymous family foundation in 2019, but they’ve already given back to our community in droves, thanks to their involvement in various Miami charities for the last 20 years. Through their work as chairs at different fundraisers, they’ve helped to raise more than $30 million and they themselves have donated gifts in excess of $4 million. They have the accolades to prove it too. In 2019, the couple was the recipient of the Trish & Dan Bell Community Empowerment Award by Branches, the President’s Distinguished Community Service Award by the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Community Builder Award from United HomeCare and the Power Couple of the Year Award by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. Here, Marile explains what giving back means to her and her family.
There are so many ways to give back. You chose education as your main cause. Why? Education is one of our top priorities, particularly because we believe that every child, no matter his or her family, social or economic circumstances, has a right to receive an excellent education and opportunity to grow to his or her potential.
Do your children have specific roles within the organization? Yes! It is truly a family foundation. AR, our eldest son, is a second-year law student and a board member serving as our treasurer, and he reviews the various grant applications. Annia, a business marketing student at UM, manages all the social media for every family project. Carlos is a tech-savvy computer engineer, and he generates the reporting and analytics to support various funding opportunities. And our youngest, twins Saramelia and LJ, are actively involved in volunteering with different faith-based organizations.
What about your husband? There is no Jorge Luis or Marile; there is only Jorge Luis and Marile. We work together every day.
Where do you think your dedication to philanthropy comes from? Our parents came from Cuba to the United States more than 45 years ago. Jorge Luis recalls escaping the Castro regime as a little boy with only the clothes on his back. We believe in having what you need and that helping others is not a choice but an obligation.
Last year, you were recognized for your efforts by four different organizations. How does that make you feel? We are humbled and we celebrate them for their work. It’s the people behind those organizations who deserve those awards.
What are some of the foundation’s most recent accomplishments? One cause that is beyond special to us is the scholarship fund we have through Pace High School for children with financial needs. 2020 marked our fifth year, and there have been 25 recipients.
What do you see for your foundation as you move forward? Legacy. Our five children are actively involved in our charities of choice, and it’s our hope they continue to serve long after we’re not here.
The League Against Cancer/Liga Contra el Cancer (ligacontraelcancer.org) was founded in Miami in 1975 and modeled after a similar organization that served cancer patients in Havana, Cuba, established in 1925. Its mission is to provide free medical services to low-income individuals diagnosed with the disease. Since its founding, the organization has served more than 69,171 persons from 51 countries, and performed tens of thousands of cancer-related tests and treatments. (President George H. W. Bush named it one of the top 10 nonprofits in the U.S. in 1992.) And it does it all with volunteers. Among them is Manny Alfonso, who serves as the treasurer and is responsible for organizing the Liga’s annual telethon and find sponsorships for its gala, and has raised more than $10 million for the entity since he joined it in 2005. Here, he tells us more about his work and the way his family is involved.
Fundraising is not easy work. You’ve been at your position for 15 years. How do you stay motived? My motivation is the love and belief I have for this organization to save the lives of people who can’t afford treatment. I see patients’ faces when they’re getting chemo treatments and they say thank you. And I get motivated because I am a cancer survivor myself and cancer plain sucks.
What does it take to put together the annual telethon? The show takes place in June, and it’s broadcast with Telemundo 51 and NBC 6. I produce the event on the side of the Liga and coordinate all 2,000 volunteers.
You’ve been involved in the organization since you were a kid, correct? Yes, I started at 8 years old with my parents.
How are your wife and children part of the volunteering? My wife, Denise, has chaired and organized the Liga’s annual children’s fashion show and chairs the Cangrejitos Club, which involves kids, including my two children.
How have you passed the tradition of volunteering to your children? I haven’t had to try hard. They see it as normal. They both look forward to the week of the telethon, so for them raising money is just like going to school.
Where does your dedication to philanthropy come from? From my grandmother and my parents, who have been giving back since their days in Cuba.
What are some of the Liga’s most recent accomplishments? There are so many, but the fact that they open their doors every day and perform 5,000 mammograms on women who can’t afford it with volunteer doctors is quite an accomplishment.
What do you hope for the organization as we head into the future? You know, during this COVID-19 crisis, I was reminded that cancer doesn’t sleep, so we continued to see patients through the worst of the pandemic. My goal is to help more people every year and continue to save more lives.
Photography by: Manolo Doreste