My history with Wil Blechman

Thomas R. Weller

I met Wil Blechman in the mid to late 80’s in South Florida.  I had been in Kiwanis a few years at that time.  At one time he gathered several prominent community leaders to provide a program to a joint meeting of Kiwanis members from all over Dade County.  Two of those speakers were Dade County Attorney General, Janet Reno, and a Juvenile Court Judge.  Wil also spoke.   That program was before Wil became KI President and was a glimpse into his idea of Kiwanis adopting Young Children; Priority One.  That program amazed me, and Wil and I spoke about it on several occasions.  When Wil became International President YCPO was adopted on a trial basis.  As for YCPO, it has now changed Kiwanis history: having been so incredibly successful in addressing the needs of very young children.

Wil’s and my friendship continued through the years.  We also had the chance to work together from time to time.  We were interviewed for a local one-half hour program on PBS about YCPO.  Soon after Hurricane Andrew blew through South Florida a lot of funds were donated to the area: most of them funneled to my home club: Homestead- South Dade.  The club talked about the greatest needs in the area and donated well over $100K to equip and start a daycare. Without it, parents who could eventually go back to work, were now able to do so.  But a lot of funds were left over. Wil suggested that we use those funds for scholarships for those wishing to get into early childcare education. We partnered the funds with Miami-Dade Community College. With their education now daycare workers weren’t just housing the children, but actually teaching them so that, when they got to kindergarten, they were ahead of so many others. That program continued for many years and may still be on-going.

Wil and I would talk from time to time and always looked each other up at conventions.  We enjoyed each other’s company a great deal and talked about many things: not just Kiwanis, but life.

I missed him at the last District Convention. I heard that he wasn’t doing well.  After returning home, I emailed him.  I said that I’d like to talk to him.  We spoke for about 25 minutes one afternoon. I talked about his accomplishments in Kiwanis, but he tried to downplay it. He did this at least twice. Finally, I had enough and told him that, due to his leadership, literally millions of children around the world were not only alive but doing well.  We spoke another minute or two and said our “goodbyes”.

To bring this from a story to a tribute …

Wil Blechman was passionate about his patients and about children: the opposite ends of the life span.  He wouldn’t merely follow the path that others had laid out but searched for a better path.  That better path led to Young Children: Priority One and changed Kiwanis forever.  He loved his role in Kiwanis, not only at the upper echelons but also at the club level: whether it was 1980 or 2019.  He was a very real person: no pretense there.  When he was your friend, he was a real friend.  He wasn’t focused upon his life: but always the lives of others.  I’m very thankful that what I have just written are not platitudes but facts about a close friend of mine that I learned throughout the years from being his friend.

2024 Golf Tournament

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