Aqua Girl is a foundation for lesbian, bisexual, and transgender wellness. In its 17th year, it celebrates with a full week of festivities. Proceeds go to charity. What began as a one-night fundraiser for breast cancer, dubbed Sweet Charity, has since grown.
The Aqua Foundation for Women puts on the event every year. It was established 12 years ago as a way to institutionalize the funds that the parties raised. Caitlin Wood, who has been heading as the executive director for the last 18 months, says that though Aqua Girl only happens one week, their work is all year around.
“It’s the largest charity women’s party event in the country, but I think it’s important to understand the mission," says Wood. "We give away over $50,000 in grants every year including to Lotus House, Project Safe, Pridelines, and others. I think people should know they are partying for a cause.”
Grant giveaways are chosen by a committee and have been spread as south as The Keys and into Broward County including Palm Beach. In June, the applications will open for anyone looking to apply. The scholarship committee will be meeting in the next couple of weeks to distribute about $2,500 in funds to 12 recipients before the new school year begins.
The Aqua Girl Foundation estimates to have distributed about $1.2 million in grants and scholarships so far and anticipates distributing $100,000 for this year. With an expected attendance of about 6,000 attendees throughout the week and its ten events, Aqua Girl is the groundwork that allows the foundation to keep investing into the community.
This year's schedule includes speed dating; the traditional splash pool party; morning yoga; and the Traffic Jam event where ladies wear fluorescent glow sticks in green, yellow, and red to indicate their relationship status. The activations begin Wednesday with a game night at The Catalina, and end on Sunday, May 15, with karaoke.
The celebration is open to anyone and everyone in the public.
For Wood, running Aqua Girl has turned into her life’s work. Since starting her career in the non-profit sector over 25 years ago, she is all about helping people in vulnerable circumstances find their way. She recalls a story that cemented her beliefs. “There was a scholar that got kicked out of her home for being gay and Project Safe, a grantee, was able to place her at Lotus House, another grantee. They were able to get her back into school, and she was able to cover her housing this year with the money we gave her.
"Anytime I make a site visit [for the event], I just realize the money is doing so much good. It’s totally worth it. We don’t stop, and I’m really grateful.”
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Aqua Girl 2016
Events begin Wednesday, May 11, and run through Sunday, May 15. For the full schedule, visit aquagirl.org.
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