Skip to main content
Black Tie
West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Apr. 5, 2018 2 years ago

CAUSING AN EFFECT: UCP of Central Florida

This month’s featured nonprofit is the United Cerebral Palsy of Central Florida.
by: Danielle Hendrix Associate Editor

This month’s featured nonprofit is the United Cerebral Palsy of Central Florida. UCP has hosted an Evening at the Palace gala locally for 25 years to raise money for its efforts, and this year’s theme is Starry Night. The event will be star-studded, indeed, as celebrity co-hosts Rachael Harris, Matt Iseman, Cheryl Hines and RJ Mitte get the party going. Country music star  Jake Owen is set to provide a special opening performance, with UCP students performing throughout the evening. 

Evening at the Palace takes place at the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace at Disney Springs starting at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, April 7. To learn more or purchase tickets, visit


What is UCP of Central Florida?

“The majority of our services are education based, therapy based and family-support counseling, and we provide equal access to elementary education for children with and without disabilities,” said J.P. Soto, senior director of marketing for UCP of Central Florida. “We apply an inclusion program and we don’t have special-education classes — our kids learn side by side. What we’re trying to do is give the children a real-world model and prepare them for integration as adults, both the kids with and without disabilities. … It seems to benefit both sets of children quite well.”

How many children has UCP of Central Florida impacted?

UCP of Central Florida currently provides support, therapy and education services to more than 3,000 children, teenagers, young adults and their families across seven Central Florida locations.

How long has UCP been in the Central Florida area?

UCP of Central Florida began in 1955 to offer hope to children, particularly those with cerebral palsy. A group of parents banded together to start the small program — which provided an early-intervention classroom and therapy services — in a remodeled house on Colonial Drive.

Tell us about your upcoming fundraising events.

“It’s kind of like big fundraising weekend,” Soto said. “The Friday event is our charity poker tournament, and both that (and the gala) will be hosted and attended by Cheryl Hines, Rachael Harris, R.J. Mitte and Matt Iseman. We’re also going to have local guests. The gala is our 25th, so we’re celebrating a milestone. We’re going to have headlining acts for that one. … This is probably our biggest fundraiser of the year.”

Why do you enjoy working with UCP?

“Honestly, it’s the kids,” Soto said. “They have so much to offer and are willing to show their strengths and wisdom and kindness. I consider myself very lucky to be allowed to advocate for them.”

What can guests expect from the event?

“The gala is going to be an night in which we, at the heart of it all, we’re going to advocate and celebrate the hard work and spirit of our children and the families that support them, as well as the teachers and therapists (who) support them,” Soto said. “Within that, it will be kind of a gathering of local influencers, business leaders, community leaders and national artists just really coming together to advocate for these children. It’s a very upscale event with a lot of heart.”

How can someone get involved?

Want to learn more about UCP of Central Florida, find a location, donate or get involved? Visit for more information. UCP currently has seven locations in Central Florida.


Causing an Effect is a monthly feature that introduces a charity or philanthropic organization and highlights its impact on the local community. If you would like to be featured in a future Causing an Effect, contact Black Tie Editor Danielle Hendrix at [email protected].

Danielle Hendrix is the Associate Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She is a 2015 graduate of the University of Central Florida, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in world comparative studies. ...

See All Articles by Danielle

Related Stories