When Ted and Ethna Wishnie of Sarasota walk through the halls of Children First in Sarasota, they are touched by the success stories, the gratitude and the children’s songs.
That zest for life reminds them of Eric Wishnie, Ted’s son and Ethna’s stepson, whose death at age 45 came amidst a successful broadcast career as senior producer for NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw that left a global footprint producing everything from interviews with world leaders to Olympic coverage.
“Eric through his education, learning and traveling had such a wonderful, fulfilling life. We wanted to honor that,” says Ethna. “By education, you give children a chance to prosper.”
Children First serves hundreds of Sarasota County’s most vulnerable children from birth to age five as well as their families through multiple locations.
Its mission is to strengthen children and families by improving the quality of their lives through a comprehensive approach to development, education, health, and well-being that includes Head Start programs and Families First Institute classes for all family members.
Ted had established successful managerial careers in the retail and the restaurant industries; Ethna did so in the financial sector. They also are grandparents.
It was what Ted calls the ‘famous walk’ through Children First headquarters more than 10 years ago that led them to support Children First.
“You become committed,” he says. “Children First assisted us in creating the Eric Wishnie Memorial Fund.”
The Wishnies made their first bequest to Children First in their wills at the time and recently doubled it. Eric’s sister and brother-in-law Dawn and Mitchell Epstein also are contributors.
“We love that when they take care of a child, it encompasses the whole family,” Ethna notes. “It is a wholesome way to teach children, break unhealthy cycles and put them on a level playing field.”