Children’s Week Florida
Children’s Week Florida is the only annual event held in the state that celebrates and honors its commitment to children and advocates. This legendary event began more than 20 years ago during the tenure of Governor Lawton Chiles.
The event we know and love today as Children’s Week Florida has evolved and expanded over the years:
1986: Initial Hanging of the Hands at State Capitol
1996: State Coordinating Council for Early Childhood Service invited to join in coordination efforts of Children’s Day
2002: Children’s Day changed in statute to Parents and Children’s Day
2005: United Way of Florida expanded Children’s Day into a full week of advocacy events and activities
Through the years, these events have always recognized the contributions and collaboration of families, advocates, organizations, and legislature to celebrate and honor their commitment to children and youth.
Children’s Week Florida depends upon the collaborative efforts of partners and volunteers to host a number of engaging events and activities statewide. These events provide thousands of parents, children, policymakers, professionals, and community leaders the opportunity to share knowledge and information about children’s issues in communities across the state. We look forward to continued growth and success for Children’s Week Florida for many years to come!
This event was once known as Children’s Day, but the decision was made by the Florida Children’s Forum to change the event to Children’s Week to honor the multiple organizations who collaborate on children’s issues at the Capitol. To bring more attention and build a broader base of support, the Children’s Forum invited the State Coordinating Council for Early Childhood Services, to join with the Children’s Forum in coordinating the statewide activities in 1996. However, the State Coordinating Council was removed from the statute and a Children’s Week committee was formed to plan and coordinate Children’s Week activities. In 2002, Under the leadership of Representative Loranne Ausley, Children’s Day was changed in the statute to Parents and Children’s Day. Parents and Children’s Day recognized the contributions of families who support the healthy growth and development of children.
The Children’s Forum initially began the annual tradition of the Hanging of the Hands at the Capitol in 1986 which now takes place during Children’s Week. In 2005, the Forum graciously allowed the Hanging of the Hands to remain with Children’s Week. Hanging of the Hands provides a visual that each set of hands represents a child who is impacted by the policy decisions made by the legislature. This event is key to the success of Children’s Week and a great tribute to the Forum’s initial vision and collaborative spirit.
In 2005, attendance was at an all-time low and grant funding was lost- the future of Children’s Week was uncertain. To save and expand the Children’s Week concept beyond the focus of early childhood education and development, Jason Zaborske and United Way of Florida (UWOF) stepped up to facilitate a collaborative process that saved and grew the event into what it is today.
Capital Events (CE) President Jason Zaborske brought a passion and a vision to Children’s Week. Jason and United Way of Florida President, Ted Granger, focused on strengthening existing sponsor relationships and expanding the event at the State Capitol into a full week of advocacy events and activities. In 2005, they added a networking dinner and redesigned the sponsorship package to attract new sponsors and keep Children’s Week successful. In 2006, CE and UWOF coordinated and hosted the Florida Children’s Summit on children’s issues and secured Comcast as a new statewide media partner for Children’s Week. Comcast hosted live televised interviews of policy makers and advocates in the State Capitol Courtyard. Focused on gaining partners rather than sponsors, Children’s Week grew attendance to more than 1,000 at the State Capitol and boasted more than 20 statewide partners to host information booths at the State Capitol. Children’s Week gained in notoriety and attracted the attention of statewide leaders.
This new event concept employs the efforts of partners to host events and activities for children. It enlists volunteers statewide to assemble committees to organize these new activities. Children’s Week underwent a major transformation from just a small press conference and Hanging of the Hands ceremony, to a comprehensive advocacy event in 2007.
In 2008 attendance nearly doubled, energizing partners and volunteers to grow Children’s Week. Since then, Children’s Week has added a free luncheon, Storybook Village, and built partnerships with major media outlets like iHeartMedia, Inc. who promote the event statewide.
Now in their 12th year of coordinating Children’s Week, CE and UWOF are proud to have increased Children’s Week’s attendance and partnership to more than 130 paid partners, over 5,000 attendees, more than 50 free community events statewide, and hundreds of volunteers who make Children’s Week the largest event hosted at Florida’s State Capitol.
Children’s Week features a free breakfast, free lunch, books and a storybook village consisting of more than 40 interactive reading booths for children to explore. The annual Awards Dinner and Reception dinner has been sold out the last 8 years with more than 400 attendees. Children’s Week supports more than 50 community events and activities each year. These events provide thousands of parents, children, policy makers, professionals and community leaders the opportunity to share knowledge and information about children’s issues in communities across the state.