Junior League of Miami Announces Honorees of 12th Annual Women Who Make a Difference Luncheon

Honorees include Virginia A. Jacko, Sandy Skelaney, and Wansley Walters

Online PR News – 06-April-2013 – Miami, FL – On Sunday, April 7, the Junior League of Miami (JLM), an organization of approximately 1,000 women dedicated to the empowerment of Miami’s women, children and families, will honor three extraordinary women who exemplify the League’s mission, at the 12th Annual Women Who Make a Difference luncheon.

This year’s honorees include: advocate for the visually impaired, Virginia A. Jacko; advocate for female victims of sex trafficking, Sandy Skelaney; and nationally recognized leader in juvenile justice, Wansley Walters.

Virginia A. Jacko: President and CEO, Miami Lighthouse
Virginia A. Jacko is a blind visionary in a sighted world. She attributes her continuing success as an experienced financial executive to her vocational rehabilitation at Miami Lighthouse, the oldest and largest private agency in Florida to serve people of all ages who are blind and visually impaired. During her tenure as President and CEO, the number of program participants has increased from fewer than 500 in 2004 to about 10,000 today, and donor contributions have more than doubled. A variety of groundbreaking new programs in Braille and technology literacy, vocational rehabilitation, music, ceramic arts, year-round programming for blind and visually impaired kids and eye wellness services to schoolchildren have made Miami Lighthouse a Center of Excellence recognized nationally in professional and academic publications. Virginia told her story in a book written in 2009 with Doug Eadie, The Blind Visionary. She donates her royalties to Miami Lighthouse.

Sandy Skelaney: Program Manager, Project GOLD – Kristi House
Project GOLD – “Girls Owning their Lives and Dreams” – is a Miami program that reaches out to young female victims of sex trafficking at Kristi House. The Project GOLD initiative had its genesis in Sandy Skelaney’s vision and advocacy due to what she saw as a lack of specialized services available for commercially sexually exploited children in Miami-Dade County. She also saw a significant lack of awareness within the community about the issue and how to effectively help the youth. Sandy had worked with two renowned anti-trafficking organizations, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services in New York City, and ECPAT International in Bangkok, Thailand, prior to moving to Miami. Her knowledge of their award-winning best practices formed the basis of Project GOLD, which strives to engage this special population for services, encourage their healing and pave the way for their future success.

Wansley Walters: Secretary, Florida Department of Juvenile Justice
Secretary Wansley Walters is a nationally recognized leader in juvenile justice. She pioneered juvenile justice services in Miami-Dade County before being named director of its Juvenile Services Department in 2002. During her tenure, Miami-Dade not only had the lowest youth incarceration rate in the state, but also boasted one of Florida’s lowest juvenile crime rates. In 2011, Governor Rick Scott appointed her to lead the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), and she is responsible for a state agency of 3,500 employees serving youth and communities throughout Florida. In October 2012, she announced the launch of the Roadmap to System Excellence, a comprehensive initiative to strategically reform juvenile justice in Florida. She was one of eight recipients of the 2012 Juvenile Justice Without Borders International Award presented by the International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO). The award is granted once every two years to individuals and organizations for outstanding achievements in juvenile justice research, advocacy and intervention under the auspices of the United Nations.

“We are excited to roll out the red carpet for this remarkable group of women who have dedicated their time, talent and resources to enriching the lives of women, children and families in the South Florida community,” says Katie Lane Arriola, JLM President. “Now in its 12th year, the Women Who Make a Difference luncheon has become a signature event for the Junior League of Miami. The League is committed to training members to be effective leaders within the community, and we are delighted to recognize a few of Miami’s most philanthropic role models each year.”

The luncheon, emceed by Roxanne “Roxy” Vargas of NBC 6 News, will take place at the Jungle Island Treetop Ballroom, located at 1111 Parrot Jungle Trail Miami, and will include an awards ceremony, silent auction, and VIP drawing with fabulous prizes.

The Junior League of Miami is especially grateful to its sponsors, which include Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines; Apollo Bank; White & Case; Kaufman Rossin; Adam Carlin from Morgan Stanley Wealth Management; Carlisle Development Group; Inktel Holdings; Stonegate Bank; Acure Organics; Al & Andria Hanley; Betty Lopez-Castro; Hon. Lynda G. Bell; Julia Rea Bianchi and Susan Lerner.

JLM sponsors community programs and grants that empower Miami’s women, children, and families to conquer tomorrow’s challenges. Most recently, JLM has supported community programs such as Camillus House, Chapman Partners, Power Lunch Literacy and Mentoring, Miami Children’s Hospital, Our Pride Academy, Inn Transition North, Inn Transition South, and “Paws to Read” Literacy Program. Fundraisers like the Women Who Make a Difference 12th anniversary luncheon help to endow these instrumental community programs.

Ticket prices for the luncheon are $85 or $150 for a VIP ticket which includes entry into an exclusive drawing. For more information, to purchase tickets, or to inquire about sponsorship opportunities, please visit www.jlmiami.org.


The Junior League of Miami, founded in 1926, is an organization of approximately 1,000 women sharing a common vision to empower Miami's women, children, and families to conquer tomorrow's challenges and to build a united community.

The mission of the Junior League of Miami is to promote voluntarism, develop the potential of women and improve communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable. The Junior League concentrates its resources to make a significant impact on our community within the areas of homelessness, family violence, early childhood education, children’s & women’s health and foster care. This year, in addition to providing $100,000 in direct funding, another $600,000 in volunteer hours will be dedicated to the community for projects that address our five focus areas. For more information, visit www.jlmiami.org.