Hundreds of volunteers helped kick off Children’s Week Sunday at the Capitol, hanging thousands of paper cutouts of children’s hands all over Capitol Rotunda.
“Hanging of the Hands” was just one of the many events Children’s Week has to offer. The annual, six-day event, comprised of luncheons, interactive activities, tours, workshops and conferences, is held with the purpose bringing all citizens and policy makers together to shed light on and discuss children’s issues throughout the state.
The event was sponsored by over 80 different state agencies and organizations including the United Way, Florida Department of Children & Families, and Big Brother Big Sister Association of Florida.
CEO of Big Brother Big Sister of the Big Bend, Louis Garcia, believes Children’s Week is an efficient medium to speak to legislatures about what is best for children, with a major concern of minimizing the funding cut for youth.
“Children’s Week is a great way for all the organizations and efforts of the state to have a strong united voice to let our legislators know that we care about the children because they don’t have a voice of their own,” Garcia said.
All 14 Big Brother Big Sister Association of Florida affiliates were in attendance at the various events held at the Capitol throughout the week. Members from the organization were also able to speak to local representatives and legislatures about issues facing the youth.
Teresa Durdaller, the external affairs coordinator of Florida’s Department of Children and Families, said the child-centered week is a great way to “promote children’s issues and encourage individuals, businesses and community groups to get involved in the future of our children.”
Although Children’s Week is used to capture the attention of legislators, it also celebrates the youth and strives to stimulate their interests in their communities and the state.
“Children are not just born into families, they are born into communities,” Durdaller said. “Families need the support of caring and engaged communities to help them identify and build on their strengths so their children can thrive.”
Children who participated had the opportunity to listen to legislators read stories during “Legislative Story Time” among many other activities. They were also offered a free, healthy lunch.
“He had so much fun,” Tallahassee resident Brittany Holmes said of her son who participated in the week’s events. “He got his face painted and was able play with other kids his age.”
Holmes took her son, Jaylin, to the Capitol to participate in the “Children’s Capitol for a Day” celebration.
Tours of the old and new Capitol buildings were held throughout the week to inform children of Florida politics and history. In addition, a youth advocacy workshop held on Tuesday, sponsored by Florida Youth SHINE, provided the youth with information on how to make a difference and let their voices be heard in their communities.
“It’s great that they’re doing all this for the kids,” said Holmes. “They really deserve it.”