Location: Orlando, Fla.
For the youth at the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida, Mark Cavalleri is the guy who’s always there. A manager at Guardian Life Insurance (No. 254), Cavalleri created a flag football team at the center four years ago. Almost every Saturday of the year, he takes children to a local park to play flag football or do arts and crafts. Since the shelter doesn’t always have the ability to give the kids lunch on weekends, Cavalleri often brings pizza of barbeques for the participating kids—who total as many as 60 on any given Saturday. Even though most children stay at the shelter for only a few months before moving on, some continue to attend the Saturday activities even after leaving the shelter.
Members of the flag football teams range in age from five to 18, and Cavalleri—or “coach Mark,” as the kids call him—runs them alongside his other volunteers in the spirit of an avuncular high school coach. “I realized we’re doing more than just playing flag football,” Cavalleri says. “We use football as a springboard to instill lessons in life: Put the team first, work hard, and respect each other.” Beyond creating the program, which is the most popular volunteer program at the coalition, Cavalleri has raised more than $12,000 for the coalition through an annual golf event. He also keeps track of the kids’ grades, awarding $20 to those who get straight A’s. Once, he got a text from one of the kids saying that he had made the honor roll for the first time in his family’s history. When the school held an honors banquet, Mark was there.