Herald-Tribune: Children First announces $1 million plus matching gift challenge for Sarasota County

March 18, 2021

Boy sliding down green slide with big smile on his face
Children playing with trains together

March 18, 2021

Children First is proud to announce The Challenge for Changing Lives, a $1,060,000 matching gift challenge led by Children First’s 60th Anniversary Diamond Circle members. The Diamond Circle is a dedicated group of extraordinary supporters leading the charge in advancing the mission of strengthening children and families together.

Their goal is to inspire the community to join them in giving by matching all gifts, dollar for dollar, up to $1,060,000, throughout 2021 as the focal point of the agency’s overall annual fundraising efforts. Their commitment is to increase support of early childhood education, family strengthening, and comprehensive services for families living at risk.

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, Jo and Stan Rutstein, Mike Rutstein, and CEO Philip Tavill.

“As the leaders of The Challenge for Changing Lives, our incredible Diamond Circle members have a collective desire to inspire other members of our community to invest in our children and families. Even as we celebrate our 60th Anniversary, we know that the hardships faced by those we serve are greater than ever. We are working together to lead in providing solutions in these unprecedented times. These are the moments in which we can change the tide by meeting our families where they are and providing access and opportunity for current and future generations. We are deeply appreciative of our Diamond Circle members for their remarkable support,” says CEO Philip Tavill.

“We are so thankful for the trailblazing challenge match brought forth by some of our most passionate and committed supporters. Our Diamond Circle members understand that their philanthropy is not only representative of this historic milestone in our agency’s history, it is more specifically a direct recognition of the excellence of our staff and their commitment to helping us achieve the best outcomes our children and families deserve. Our children and families are as unique and special as diamonds, overcoming tremendous pressure to shine bright in the face of adversity. This collective matching campaign kick-off gift marks a significant investment in the potential of our community’s most vulnerable, allowing them to experience the transformation of a lifetime,” says Vice President of Philanthropy Jessica Rogers.

As the exclusive provider of Head Start and Early Head Start services for Sarasota County, Children First has grown to serve hundreds of children and their families annually at 15 locations annually throughout Sarasota County with campuses in Venice, North Port, and Sarasota. As a four-time designated Head Start Program of Excellence, the agency ranks in the top 1% of over 1,800 programs nationwide. Through its award-winning Families First Institute, comprehensive curricula is offered at no cost to all community members.

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.

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. To make a gift in support of The Challenge for Changing Lives, please visit childrenfirst.net/donate.

Watch the video here!