The Philanthropists: Part 1

For our December cover story, Lifestyle celebrates nine prominent professionals whose charitable efforts impact countless lives in South Florida. This week, we highlight O.J. McDuffie, Julie Jones-Bernard and Richard Weissman.


Pictured above—Back row, from left: Richard Weissman, Heiko Dobrikow, O.J. McDuffie, Carlton Washington and Andy Cagnetta. Front row, from left: Jessica Triana, Liz Caldwell, Julie Jones-Bernard and Erica Morse.


O.J. McDuffie

Co-founder, Catch 81 Foundation

Charitable involvements: Catch 81 Foundation, and participation/donations in several other organizations, including Broward 2-1-1 and his annual involvement in its Signature Grand Ghoul event

Why it’s personal: [Note: McDuffie played wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins for his entire NFL career, from 1993 to 2000.] “My early charity work was with cystic fibrosis. I gravitated to CF because of a young man named Scott Chait, who worked in the Dolphins’ media relations department and suffered from this awful disease. Scott died in 1997 at age 23 of complications from CF. He showed up to work every day with a smile on his face. I remember thinking, what are we complaining about as athletes when this young man comes in gleaming after having both lungs replaced? So that became my passion.”

Source of pride: “I’m extremely proud of the thousands of toys and thousands of backpacks we’ve collected for needy children in South Florida [through the Catch 81 Foundation]. We have an annual toy drive, Halloween party, backpack drive and bowling event to benefit these efforts.”

Words to live by: “We felt like there was so much need in the community. The needs near to our hearts involved children who were underserved.” [Note: The Catch 81 Foundation benefits local organizations and nonprofits that serve at-risk children and their families.]


Julie Jones-Bernard

Broker/owner, Florida Luxurious Properties

Charitable involvements: Royal Dames of Cancer Research, International SeaKeepers Society, Seafarers’ House

Why it’s personal: “As an active real estate broker, I participate heavily in local communities, and this has evolved into a closer association with [several] charities.”

Sources of pride: “All of the funds raised by the Royal Dames go toward cancer research at the Rumbaugh-Goodwin Institute at Nova Southeastern University—including a luncheon I recently co-chaired that raised $31,000. It’s satisfying to know that the donations are put to such good use at an institute focused on early cancer tumor detection and less-invasive treatments. It’s also exciting to see new groups of younger ladies from the local business community join the Dames.”

• “The International SeaKeepers Society is also dear to my heart given the strong connections that Fort Lauderdale has to the marine industry. SeaKeepers work tirelessly to research and protect marine biology, and to preserve our oceans. Their annual gala [held recently during the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show] is one of the most exciting events of the year; Florida Luxurious Properties has been a proud sponsor the past two years.”

• “Also aligned with the maritime world is the local Seafarers’ House at Port Everglades, where mariners can connect with their families and take some time away from their cargo or cruise ship environment. This small organization [which provides visiting mariners with care, guidance and spiritual support] does such a great job to create a welcoming environment.”

Words to live by: “I’m so fortunate to be part of such a dynamic and cosmopolitan city with so many opportunities to become involved and work alongside driven, talented and passionate individuals—people who commit endless time and resources to [drive] these charities.”


Richard Weissman

Chairman and CEO, The Learning Experience

Charitable involvement: Make-A-Wish Southern Florida

Why it’s personal: “I was first introduced to Make-A-Wish Southern Florida eight years ago by a colleague. Ever since, this program has been near and dear to my heart. I sit on the board of directors, and my wife, Robin, is a wish granter. As a family, we take great pride in giving back to Make-A-Wish—so much so, that [between personal and business contributions], we’ve been able to give/raise more than $1.5 million for the organization.”

• “I cannot express, after meeting so many children and young adults with life-threatening diseases, how blessed I feel to call these incredible children my heroes. Their strength and ability to live life and never give up teaches me to honor and respect each day with my family and friends.”

Source of pride: “I’m so proud of Robin. As much as I commit in supporting the business side of the program, my wife gives of herself by designing wishes for the children. … We can’t create cures, but she helps in creating smiles and making these children’s wishes come true. They say that negativity is viral, but happiness is the cause for waking up each morning and fighting the fight.”

Words to live by: “Can we all grow as humans and seek a higher plane if we never give back?”


Photography by James Woodley

Shot on location at La Maison Blanche in Fort Lauderdale Creative direction: Melanie Smit

Copy by: Kevin Kaminski

Creative assistant: Evelyn Suarez

About the location: Sprawling La Maison Blanche, encompassing some 1.4 acres and nearly 17,000 square feet (under air) on the point of Southeast 10th Street overlooking the Intracoastal, features 11 bedrooms, 12½ baths, a home theater, great room/entertainment center, formal dining room, chef’s kitchen, fitness room, pool and outdoor kitchen, and a two-bedroom guest house. Contact Julie Jones-Bernard at ju[email protected] or 954.328.3665 for additional details.

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