Children First Exceeds Challenge Match Campaign In Honor of 60th Anniversary

October 14, 2021

A boy with a blue pail on his head, posing for the camera
African American girl with a big smile on her face

We are proud to announce that The Challenge for Changing Lives has raised over $2.3MM in honor of Children First’s 60th Anniversary!

The matching gift challenge was led by the Diamond Circle, a dedicated group of extraordinary supporters leading the charge in advancing the mission of strengthening children and families. Their combined contribution matched, dollar for dollar $1,060,000, given by hundreds of individuals and couples, private foundations, and corporations, all within our local community.

The key philanthropists comprising the Diamond Circle membership include: two anonymous donors providing gifts totaling just over $300,000; individuals, couples and foundations providing gifts of $60,000 each including: Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation, Dawn and Mitchell Epstein, Julie and Brock Leach, Joan and Dr. Bart Levenson, Katherine and Frank Martucci, Elenor Maxheim in loving memory of John Maxheim, Keith Monda and Veronica Brady, Leslie and Dick Rivera, Gaye and Jack Schwarz, and Karen Solem in loving memory of Charles Forman; couples joining together to form Diamond Circles with combined gifts from $20,000 to $30,000 including: John Bean and Alexandra Jupin, Lisa and John Giglio, Carol and Richard Kalikow, and Bob and Lin Williams; and couples and individuals comprising a Diamond Circle with gifts from $10,000 including: Alison and Howie Madsen in loving memory of Gerri Aaron, Jo and Stan Rutstein, Mike Rutstein, and CEO Philip Tavill.

“The shared commitment from our Diamond Circle members and all who joined The Challenge is an investment, not just in the futures of our children and families, but the future of our community and the world we live in. As we celebrate Children First’s 60th Anniversary, we are deeply grateful for this heartfelt support that will result in social, educational, and economic dividends now and well into the future,” says CEO Philip Tavill.

“It has been amazing to see this trailblazing philanthropy from some of our most passionate supporters inspire a community-wide challenge that was not just met but exceeded,” says Vice President of Philanthropy Jessica Rogers. “This is a beautiful representation not just of this historic milestone for our agency, but of the greater Sarasota community’s vision to create equal access to opportunities so that all can thrive.”

In 1961, the Junior League of Sarasota founded the Sarasota Day Nursery with a mission to prepare children from low-income families for kindergarten. In 1994, the agency became Sarasota County’s exclusive provider of Head Start services. With Early Head Start services added in 1998 and a name change to Children First in 2000, the organization grew rapidly, driven by the high demand for quality early childhood education and family strengthening programs within economically vulnerable communities.

Today, Children First has expanded to serve hundreds of children and their families annually at 15 locations across North Port, Sarasota, and Venice. As a four-time designated Head Start Program of Excellence, the agency ranks in the top 1% of over 1,800 programs nationwide.

Children First’s founding principles are woven throughout its history, continuing the vision of providing children and families with opportunities for success, regardless of circumstance at birth or in life.

Video transcript: Our fundraising goal. We made it! $2.3 M M +