Local Heroes

Never ones to rest on their laurels, these Magic City entrepreneurs believe true success isn’t measured by how much you gain, but how much you can give back.
Text by Ryan Jarrell. Photos by Edward Leal and John Bouma. Zak Mann's photo his courtesy. | May 11, 2018 | People


“Coming back to Miami after 35 years really shows how things come full circle. Miami’s a great city that I’m thrilled to be a part of.”

Nationally renowned Fashion Executive. Leader of charities, both at home and abroad. Scaler of mountains. Perhaps the most fantastical aspect of Deirdre Quinn’s story is not the accomplishments earned over a lifetime of dedication, but the fact that her story began as so many Miamian’s do today: As a first generation American from a large family, blessed with an indomitable work ethic. “I was born in the Bronx and grew up in a small town called Cresskill, New Jersey,” she says. “Having a lot of energy as a kid, I worked 12 different jobs before graduating high school.” After attending Bauder Fashion College in Miami, Quinn embarked on a fashion-focused career which afforded, among other things, a several-year stay in Hong Kong. There, Quinn met Shun Yen and Ida Siu, both Shantou, China, natives whose fate was to be tied deeply to Quinn’s. Together, the trio founded Lafayette 148 New York, a versatile line of elegant women’s clothing crafted with the finest European fabrics that recently opened a store in Brickell City Centre; and the School Of Dreams, an all-day private school in Siu’s hometown funded entirely by the brand. In addition to this noble undertaking, Quinn has also devoted her brand’s resources toward the Promise Project, a non-profit serving children with learning disabilities. Furthering her philanthropic impact on the world, last year saw Quinn climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with her sister and 12 other women in support of Breast Cancer Now. “Reaching the peak, my sister and I felt extremely accomplished,” she says. “It was an unbelievable experience that I’ll never forget.” As exceptional as her charitable actions may seem, Quinn sees one simple tenet guiding her devotion to the betterment of others. “Along my journey, the people I’ve met have given me many opportunities I’m so grateful for,” she says. “I strive to give similar opportunities to those I believe in.”

Get Involved:
The Promise Project is a charity dedicated to dealing with the daunting issue of undiagnosed learning disabilities. Joining forces with top-tier medical facilities, the organization has helped countless families get a grasp on otherwise baffling disorders;


“It was when I fostered my first dog that everything really clicked. I realized anyone and everyone could make a difference.”

An inspiration to animal lovers everywhere, Jen Ford’s story is not just her own. Underscoring every activity, every milestone in a life wrought with professional and personal success, is the story of animals whose life she’s enriched with a giving heart. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Ford’s fostering tendencies started at an early age. “We had a family dog that lived a long time, and when I was in my early teens one winter, kittens showed up near our clothes dryer vent to keep warm.” Ford kept the mother and successfully found homes for all the little ones. Moving to Miami after college, Ford dove headfirst into the South Florida marketing world, working on a number of multi-million dollar media campaigns before deciding to strike out on her own with business partner Diana Fleming. As Co-Founder of Blue Daisy Media, Ford found that the tools and techniques she drew on to further her clients’ campaign goals could work just as well in the philanthropic sphere, furthering a non-profit’s ability to raise money and find temporary and forever families for animals who might otherwise not have a chance. Besides being an integral part of the Labrador Retriever Rescue Of Florida, Ford has lent her marketing expertise to other charitable organizations such as the Basset Rescue Of Florida, Smitten With Kittens, Animal Welfare Society Of South Florida and the Miami Veterinary Foundation. As humble as she is helpful, Ford wants to make clear that, while fostering rescues may seem selfless, it truly is a two-way street. “Pets are therapeutic, they enrich lives,” she says. “Yes, it’s hard to let go sometimes, but when you understand the bigger picture — that all animals benefit from this fostering process — it gets easier. Learning first-hand how an animal can touch a family’s life is extremely rewarding!”

Get Involved:
The Labrador Retriever Rescue of Florida is a non-profit dedicated to finding loving, permanent homes for Labrador Retrievers all across the state. Drawing from a wide body of volunteers and veterinarian partners, the LRRoF has adopted out 9,250 labs since 2000;


“To make a child smile is the most precious thing anyone can do — be it by giving him a toy, feeding him or just making him laugh.”

A humble refutation of the outsider’s image of a successful Miamian, Javier Maudet’s life of selfless service proves that pure-hearted charitable giving and a prosperous entrepreneurial drive don’t have to be a mutually exclusive phenomena. By day, he’s the Director of Sales & Marketing at aircraft parts provider Aviation Concepts; by night, his evenings are crowded with a variety of charitable interests, not the least of which is his own Amigos Near Foundation. Founded in 2009, Amigos Near is devoted to providing underprivileged children in the U.S. and abroad anything they might require — from toys to a meal to a smile. “I wanted to give people a platform where it’s easy to help and be a part,” he says. “Many of us want to help, we just need someone to show us the way.” Since it’s inception, members of Amigos Near have provided an uncountable number of toys, shoes, clothes, beds and food to children in over 60 different countries. Volunteers also organize a yearly toy drive each Christmas for patients at children’s hospitals across Miami. No fairweather philanthropist, Maudet’s charitable spirit is present in all facets of his life, weekends and holidays included. “Last year I took a vacation to the Philippines, and on the beach I met a man selling water-proof bags…he told me that he and his family had just arrived on the island, and they only had a mattress at their hut and very little food,” he says. “The next day, we got funds from the foundation and took them shopping to purchase food for a month, a stove, plates, a dresser and vinyl to cover the floor of their hut. Having dinner that night in their hut was the absolute highlight of my trip!”

Get Involved:
The Amigos Near Foundation provides whatever children need, wherever they’re in need. A volunteer-led effort focused on delivering directly to underserved children on a global level, the org prides itself on being able to speedily deliver much-needed aid all over the globe;


“Although most of us lead very busy lives, between work, play and family, it’s important to always try to make time to do anything in your power to get involved and support the local community.”

From the Miami Children’s Health Foundation to the Women’s Fund, the American Heart Association to the Phillip & Patricia Frost Museum Of Science, there are few Miami-based charities and civic organizations untouched by Zak Mann, Managing Director at Arven Financial, LLC. Descended from a long line of Miami natives (Mann’s 98-year-old grandmother currently resides in Coral Gables) it’s clear from the way he comports himself that giving back to the Magic City isn’t some altruistic ideal or ethical obligation — it’s housekeeping. “Being from a family that has history in Miami, I understand the importance of helping grow and strengthen the community for future generations,” he says. “I believe that to receive, you must give.” Recognizing that maintaining the magic of our city is no one-man operation, Mann has made a number of strategically selfless partnerships with philanthropists across town, including renowned trial lawyer Ricky Patel. “For the past 5 years, we’ve teamed up to increase our efforts and giving-power within the South Florida community,” he says. “This allows us to push ourselves further than we would be able to alone.” Not satisfied with simply directing these charitable institutions from afar, Mann savors most of the opportunities he has to offer hands-on aid to those less fortunate. “Every year, I work closely with all my organizations to participate in a toy drive,” he says. “The amount of joy I find when I see people donating their time, talent and treasure to the cause is great, but seeing the look on the children’s faces is priceless.”

Get Involved:
Established in 1970, the Miami Children’s Health Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Miami-based institution Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. Seeking to further the effects this powerful pediatric health center can provide, the MCHF is always in need of donations, whatever the size;


“When you engage, you inspire, when you inspire, you ignite, and when you ignite, you produce drive, determination and the will to succeed beyond any measure.”

A bright and bubbling affirmation of all things charitable in our city, Travis Stokes’ characteristic charisma vibrates with the can-do attitude that has guaranteed his success both professionally and philanthropically. Born in Easley, South Carolina, Stokes’ super-human feats as both an athlete and student leader set the tone for a lifetime of giving, carrying an interest in activism well into his entrance to FIU on an impressive array of cheerleading and academic scholarships. “I caught the leadership bug quickly,” says Stokes, whose charitable credits include (but are not limited to) Executive Board Member of the Junior Orange Bowl, active Member of the Miami-Dade Youth Crime Task Force Advisory Board and Member of the United Way’s Policy Board. “My mother has always been my rock,” he says. “She taught me at a very young age that we all have the power to change our community and make a lasting impact on the lives of others.” Currently Manager of the Parking & Transportation Department at FIU, Stokes’ professional life has required the singular focus and organizational excellence that facilitates so much of his philanthropic programs, arranging for events that run the gamut from Panther Tailgates to Presidential visits. An enthusiastic emigre to The Magic City, when pressed for favorite evening activities, he finds it impossible to limit himself. “How can you pick one? Exploring different neighborhoods, attending concerts, going to the theatre, watching FIU sporting events — we live in paradise, and we should always make it a priority to enjoy all the fun things the city has to offer!”

Get Involved:
Serving both the South Florida community and the world with a variety of wholesome, competitive and multicultural experiences, the Junior Orange Bowl is a volunteer-led organization that encourages children to excel in a bevy of exciting competitive events;