In Memoriam
Rita Dion
September 1, 1939--June 8, 2018

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Rita J. Dion, of Vero Beach, passed peacefully on June 8, 2018. Rita's passion and life's work was the Indian River Youth Guidance program. A Celebration of Life in honor of Rita Dion for family and friends will be held on Monday, July 9th from 6 to 8 pm at Waldo's (on the beach). In lieu of flowers, Rita's wish would be donations be made to Indian River Youth Guidance, 1028 20th Place #B1, Vero Beach, FL 32960.


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innate ability to connect with people so they felt close to her.

“Dion became one of the brightest lights in local social sciences circles when she moved here with her two children and first husband in 1965. She was a professor at Indian River Community College before becoming the second chief executive at Youth Guidance in 1975.

Dion, 78, died Friday at Indian River Medical Center. A celebration of her life is expected to be held in July.

“She never aged,” said Wykoff, noting Dion planned to work with Felix Cruz, Youth Guidance’s current executive director, to raise $500,000 to $750,000 to renovate the nonprofit’s building at 1028 20th Place. The agency plans to restore the country’s old library across from City Hall.

In December, the agency announced the new building would be called the Rita Dion Mentoring Academy. It would include a multipurpose room for large group activities, a learning lab and a kitchen and dining room to serve meals and for cooking classes.

Dion never had to work magic on buildings. She worked in cramped quarters on a shoe-string budget. The program began by the county in 1973 part-time,” said Michael Kint, CEO of United Way of Indian River County.

“She epitomized true devotion,” Kint said. “She was totally, totally committed and passionate about the kids and programs of Youth Guidance. She knew every one of those kids.”

With dozens, then hundreds, of youngsters in the program, Dion had no easy task. For years, Dion worked hard to match children and adults properly.

Ford was in the local Exchange Club in 1990 when it hosted a party for Youth Guidance children. She was paired with a little girl, Donna.

Toward the end of the party, Dion approached Ford. “Wouldn’t you like to be spending your time positively impacting kids? I can think of very few things that are more rewarding,” Fred said.

Those rewards made it easy, Ford said, for Dion to ask people to volunteer for Youth Guidance. “You are inviting (would-be volunteers) into something that will make their lives better,” Ford said of Dion’s philosophy.

In other words, Dion didn’t just help children who craved more adult interaction. She helped adults. ”It seemed like I’ve learned everything from her,” said Wykoff, 19 when she began volunteering for Dion. “Everything” includes leadership, fundraising and human interaction.

Department, welcomed Youth Guidance children in summer camp. “One of her greatest qualities was her humility. She was just a hard worker.”

Dion’s untimely death struck her friends and relatives hard.

“It’s very tragic,” Ford said. “She had a lot of life left. . . . But look at her legacy.” It’s a legacy that not only survived spinning off from a county program into a standalone nonprofit and continuing to thrive.

It’s a legacy of building an agency that now serves almost 300 children per year with after-school programs, cooking classes and more. It’s a legacy that will be celebrated by friends and relatives in the coming weeks.
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