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Winterfest in Hialeah benefits needy kids

HIALEAH
Winterfest in Hialeah benefits needy kids
In Hialeah, a community dances and eats to benefit the nonprofit Niños Cristianos en Accion, which is raising money to help needy children.

BY RODOLFO ROMAN
SPECIAL TO THE MIAMI HERALD
Merengue singer Humberto Yepez gets teary-eyed every time he turns on the tube and encounters a commercial for children in need.
“Kids are the men of tomorrow but you need to work with them starting now,” said Yepez, who is a father.
“It is important to help children.”
Along with his band Mostaza, which translates to mustard, Yepez hit the stage at the inaugural Winterfest to benefit the nonprofit Niños Cristianos en Accion, which is raising money to help needy children. The benefit concert was held March 18th through the 21st at Hialeah Park, at 2200 E. Fourth Ave.
Yepez was one of hundreds of volunteers who came out to support the effort at the four-day event.
Proceeds from the festival will go toward ongoing efforts to help those less fortunate in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
More than a thousand showed up to donate and enjoy several musical acts on stage, including the Christian rock band Cristilyn con el Ministerio del Nuevo Cantico and the Hialeah High Jazz Band.
The festival also featured more than 40 vendors selling everything from cigars to piña coladas and Hispanic foods. Vendors paid $350 to rent a booth, which will go to aid the nonprofit. Children also had an opportunity to get some thrills on carnival rides. And VOK Clown entertained and painted the faces of youngsters.
The event was spearheaded by Zoe Prieto, president of Niños Cristianos en Accion. Twenty-two years ago, she was diagnosed with lung cancer and has been determined to lend a hand ever since.
“I have dedicated my life to serving the children,” she said. “I have a lot of faith and God has saved me.”
The nonprofit was started in 1995 by local reverend Evelio Valdes after vacationing in the Dominican Republic, where he was moved by the country’s grinding poverty. Since then, the organization has held small fundraisers and has been recognized by the Caribbean island’s government. The Winterfest is the largest event, by far.
Currently, the organization is constructing a building for the church Uncion y Poder located near the Dominican Republic’s capital of Santo Domingo. The church provides entertainment and food and helps children in the neighborhood. Money also goes to God’s Littlest Angel, a Haitian non-denominational ministry founded to care for premature, malnourished and abandoned children.
Miami Lakes resident Luis Collazo stopped by to donate $100 to the effort.
“Anything I can do to give to the less-fortunate is a blessing,” said Collazo, who handed the cash to Prieto. State Rep. Eddy Gonzalez also contributed.
“Our mission is kids,” said Gonzalez, who is Prieto’s brother.
“At the end of the day, it is not much but when you start adding, it helps.”
Gonzalez donated about $3,000 last year. He hopes to do the same in 2010.
Cristianos en Accion received an outpouring of contributions. Olivia Cigars sold products at the event with all proceeds going to the organization. The company that runs Hialeah Park, Bal Bay Management, donated the space, along with the $3 parking fee.
Yepez said it is hard to watch a child struggle.
“When you see your kids suffer your heart breaks,” said Yepez, who is from the Dominican Republic .
For information call 305-403-0859

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