Published Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Our 18th annual March for Meals St. Patrick’s 5k on March 11, was an amazingly huge, successful event. With an overwhelming collaboration of supporters, including our own OCOA team, hundreds of members from the Osceola community, County leaders, and partnering businesses were all there (Wearing green!) to support this annual event.

With more than 380 participants, under a perfect March morning sunrise, the event kicked off at Kissimmee Lakefront Park at 8 a.m. The event hosted 27 teams this year; I want to personally thank the many team leaders who recruited participants to support this initiative for our Meals on Wheels program.

Community teams included Toho Water Authority (also a sponsor), Goosehead Insurance, (t-shirt and event sponsor), and the Osceola County Health Department, just to name a few.

The Largest Team Award went to the Osceola County Tax Collectors Office, with the Most Spirited Team Award given to HCA Florida Osceola Hospital. The Beverly Hougland Award was given to the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office. This award is presented to the organization who goes above and beyond, consistently, engaging employees to support the initiatives we manage to better care for the at-risk residents of our community.

“It is a great privilege that the Osceola Council on Aging has selected the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office for the Beverly Hougland Award,” said Sheriff Marcos Lopez. “Thank you for motivating us to continue to have the highest level of dedication for our vulnerable residents,” added Lopez.

We want to also thank the Kissimmee Police Department for being on hand to not only support the event but keep us all safe. Additionally, I wish to expressly thank the Kissimmee Utility Authority (KUA) for being our presenting sponsor for the past 20 years.

Additional sponsors include the City of Kissimmee, Home Depot, Village Medical, Clancy & Theys Construction, Rotary Kissimmee West, REACH, WellCare, Humana and CenterWell. Between our sponsors and participants, we raised more than $25,000.

“We have nearly 200 seniors on our Meals on Wheels’ waiting list, these proceeds will allow the OCOA to expand participation of the program,” said Wilda Belisle, Senior VP of Nutrition, Osceola Council on Aging.

Also, important to note, without our Meals on Wheels volunteer drivers, this program would be impossible. In 2022, nearly 200,000 meals were delivered through our Meals on Wheels initiatives.

“Our drivers reach community residents who sadly, would have difficulty surviving without this nutrition program,” added Belisle.

“March is an important time for us to come together to ensure that Meals on Wheels is there for our senior neighbors in need,” said Ellie Hollander, President, and CEO of Meals on Wheels America.

According to Hollander, the demand for services continues to be great, and with approximately 12,000 Americans turning 60 every day, the need will increase.

“We must maintain and expand this program which has helped many individuals get through this unprecedented time. We cannot do it alone. It takes all of us to keep the nationwide Meals on Wheels movement going,” Hollander added.

With last month’s extremely successful 50th Anniversary Gala, and now a perfectly successful March for Meals 5K Run/ Walk, we hope 2023 will let us continue to host planned events and fundraisers like this one which support our seniors, disabled adults, and disadvantaged families living in Osceola County.

As the president/CEO of the OCOA, I continue to be inspired by the overwhelming community support we receive. I am also inspired by the hundreds of individuals associated with the OCOA who are exemplary in their work to support individuals in need living in the Osceola community.

To see more guest columns by Wendy, go to