Pizza for a Purpose Raises Funds for Esperança

Pizza for a Purpose Raises Funds for Esperança

Chef Michael Leto of Lil’ Leto Catering hosted a fundraising event on June 8 to benefit Esperança.  With the support of in-kind donors and proceeds from the silent auction featuring artwork created by local artists, this first-time event raised more than $5,000.

Chef Leto was introduced to the work of Esperança during one of the organization’s informational Story of Hope tours.  Moved by what he learned about the organization both here in Arizona and abroad, he immediately volunteered to host this event.

“After being introduced to Esperança by my friend David Schlinkert, one of the organization’s board members, I knew I wanted to do something to support the good work that the staff and volunteers are doing for under-served kids and families,” said Chef Leto.  “Cooking is my passion and hosting Pizza for a Purpose was a perfect way to bring people together.”

In addition to sampling a wide variety of food items, guests had the opportunity to bid on artwork that was created onsite during the event by local artists Carissa Schultz and Christina Carmel.

“The event was a success not only because of the funds we were able to collect that evening, but because of the relationships we now have with the guests that attended,” said Jeri Royce, CEO of Esperança.  “We are grateful to our board members like David and to community supporters like Chef Leto who so generously donate their time and talents.”

Derived from the Portuguese word for “hope,” Esperança has been dedicated to transforming lives since its inception in 1970. The Arizona-based nonprofit began its mission abroad, serving the most under-resourced and poverty-stricken communities throughout the Central Amazon Region. While providing health education and volunteer medical care, including surgical procedures, Esperança quickly became known as a symbol of hope to those that had learned to live hopelessly.

Today, Esperança continues to improve health outcomes in such places as Peru, Mozambique, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua.  Volunteers and Esperança’s indigenous partners provide these communities with access to quality surgical care, clean water, stable sources of food, disease prevention education, and ecological housing.

Esperança’s domestic program in Phoenix partners with Title I schools, dental clinics, and community centers; utilizing bilingual and bicultural health educators to provide children with oral health literacy, referrals for free or low-cost dental care, and daily health and wellness exercises. They stress the importance of nutrition and physical activity, providing information in a language and at a level the kids can understand.

Known as Salud con Sabor Latino (Health with a Latin Flavor), adult and senior classes are built around the idea that a family can be healthy without losing touch with their culture. Participants engage in hands-on activities, such as cooking sessions and tours of local grocery stores. Further, the team offers parent-ambassador training, which teaches parents about public health and how to be a strong advocate for their children.

For more information, plus ways to volunteer and contribute, visit

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