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Children First Fairytale Ball Raises More Than $570,000 in Support of Comprehensive Programs for Children and Families

On April 6, Children First hosted its 24th Annual Fairytale Ball at Michael’s on East. Fitting the Majesty under the Moonlight motif, the gala’s theme was “On the darkest nights, the brightest stars shine!” Shine they did, throughout the evening.

Auctioneer Michael Klauber led a live auction and paddle raise, with the event netting more than $570,000 in funds raised.

During the first hour of the glamorous, sold-out event, guests enjoyed a cocktail reception in the courtyard, featuring a wall of sparkling wines, as well as displays informing guests how their donations can directly benefit Children First’s families.

The evening’s program began with Children First board chair Keith Johnson and Vice President of Philanthropy Jessica Rogers recognizing the stars who support the organization: the event sponsors, the board, volunteers, and staff. The two then announced recent awards Children First has received, including USA Today Top Workplaces and The NonProfit Times’s Best Nonprofits to Work for Nationwide. They also revealed that Kathleen Sullivan, Vice President of Programs and Head Start & Early Head Start Director, will be presented with an award from the National Head Start Association on April 20.

Presenting sponsor PGT Innovations former CEO and former Children First board chair Jeff Jackson spoke of the ways Children First impacts their families and the community. “They have incredible passion for children and a vision for children,” he said. “It always starts with children.”

Following remarks by the event’s co-chairs Hank and Phyllis Battie, and a performance by children from the Sarasota Ballet, guests watched an inspiring video featuring Yolonda Turner, a single mother of six whose foster child, Starr, was referred to Children First by her caseworker. Until Yolonda was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she worked in Children First nutrition services as part of the Parent Training Program. “Children First is not just a support system,” she said. “It’s a lifeline for families.”

Taking after her grandmother, who fostered 10 children and adopted six of them, Yolonda plans to adopt Starr. “You need to be the change you want to see in your community,” she said.

After dinner, Philip Tavill, Children First’s President and CEO, spoke on behalf of everyone in the ballroom. “We all sit here with humility regarding what Yolonda has decided to do for Starr and other children,” he said. Despite her diagnosis, she “will continue to realize her potential.”

Philip concluded his speech by reminding the guests “We are in the business of putting children first and putting families first.”

Guests ended the festive evening with dancing to 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 multiple 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


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Media Contact : Evan Ackerman

Source : Evan Ackerman

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