On April 1, Children First hosted its 23rd Annual Fairytale Ball at Michael’s on East, with the magic of Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass,” his sequel to “Alice in Wonderland,” creating a festive backdrop.
Auctioneer Michael Klauber led a record-setting live auction and paddle raise, with the event netting more than $600,000 in funds raised.
During the first hour of the glamorous, sold-out event, guests enjoyed a cocktail reception and placed their bids on items in an online silent auction. As they moved inside, they were treated to a performance by Cirque Vertigo, a talented group of second-, sixth- and seventh- generation circus performers.
Guests were welcomed by Vice President of Philanthropy Jessica Rogers, who began by thanking event co-chairs Lisa and John Giglio, Teresa and Trevor Harvey, and Janna and Josh Kim. She then introduced Trevor Harvey, a Children First alumni and former board chair.
The pair cited two special awards. First, Children First parent Maria Somera was honored by the Florida Head Start Association as Parent of the Year, one of the highest honors awarded to a parent within the Head Start Community. And secondly, after receiving recognition at both the state and regional levels, CEO Philip Tavill will be honored this May by the National Head Start Association with the Sargent Shriver Excellence in Community Service Award.
A video celebrated the accomplishments of Kenny Hughes, his wife Lisa, and their son Matthew, who, Kenny said, “inspires me to be the best dad I can be.” Kenny has taken on leadership roles at Children First with the Policy Council and the Board of Directors, and expressed his gratitude to everyone in the room. “Thank you for changing our lives, and for all the lives you continue to change, now and for generations to come.”
After dinner, Philip thanked Kenny for sharing his story. “When you walk through the doors of Children First, our focus is on helping the entire family, just like with Kenny, Lisa and Matthew.”
“You need to know behind the scenes what our families are dealing with,” he said. “It could be a child with a disability, a family experiencing homelessness, a lack of transportation, food insecurity or an exposure to violence.
“By going Through the Looking Glass, we continue to show our families that no matter which direction their journey may take, hard work and a strong system of support will always prevail.”
Guests ended the festive evening with dancing to the sounds of the Bay Kings Band.
About Children First:
Founded in 1961 and ranked in the top 1% out of over 1,800 Head Starts nationwide, Children First strengthens children and families by improving the quality of their lives through a comprehensive approach to development, education, health, and well-being. At 15 sites throughout Sarasota County, Children First offers full-day preschool, infant and toddler care, and nutrition and health care assistance to children ages birth to five years old from low-income families. Through Children First, the children receive the social and cognitive skills needed to enter kindergarten and elementary school on track. For more information, call (941) 953-3877 or go to childrenfirst.net.