February 21, 2011
Hundreds Gather To Honor A Kid’s Place Founder, Launch Major Campaign
A tireless child advocate and former Hillsborough County Commissioner Dottie Berger MacKinnon was honored by family members as well as more than 200 friends and supporters of her passion for children during a recent event appropriately themed “Celebrating a Legacy.”
The event’s title was both timely and appropriate for MacKinnon, 67, a breast cancer survivor, who was recently diagnosed with cancer of the bile duct. Her legacy will be present and felt by all of the children who find their way through the center’s doors in the form of a bronze-cast reminder of her sitting on a bench reading to a child.
MacKinnon’s relentless effort on behalf of abused or neglected children has raised millions of dollars to build Joshua House in 1994, a haven in Lutz for children removed from their families, followed by the opening of A Kid’s Place in 2009, which temporarily houses abused or neglected children in Valrico.
The opening of a fifth residence building on the grounds at the A Kid’s Place, which will bear the name Dottie Berger MacKinnon House, will bring the number of residents to the full capacity of 60.
One by one, some of the community’s most influential members took a few moments and commented on what MacKinnon has been able to accomplish and what a center like A Kid’s Place does for its young residents.
The list included Sheriff David Gee, who emphasized that thanks to MacKinnon and A Kid’s Place, instead of being taken to different places, siblings can stay together after being removed from their homes.
“It tore me up to see three kids sitting in three separate patrol cars, headed for different places in the middle of the night,” Gee said, adding, “But no more.”
Following Gee’s comments, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi called MacKinnon “an angel here on Earth,” while others like Florida State Senator Ronda Storms, Circuit Court Judge Tracy Sheehan, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, just to name a few, used phrases like, “a model for the community,” “the best friend anyone can have,” “a passionate defender of children,” and “the one who truly deserves the honor of all in the community.”
When there was no more words left to add, Kid’s Charity of Tampa Bay Chair Jon Yob summed things up by saying, “There are no words to describe what Dottie has done on behalf of the children in the community.”
The event was about more than just words as it also launched the public phase of a matching campaign to reach the $1 million gift from Sandy MacKinnon intended to pay off the center’s total $5.2 million debt.
So far, thanks to all the support and generosity of the Brandon and surrounding areas, $3.5 million has been paid off.
The current matching campaign has raised $868,000 in 18 weeks. The remaining 25 percent will free the center of debt and allow its supporters to focus on its annual $500,000 operating cost.
It was humbling to see that after all the praise and attention, and without taking a breath, MacKinnon focused her attention to what got her and all present to the event in the first place: the children.
“We have raised the bar in children services, which will never be lowered,” MacKinnon said. “I want to thank Sandy for supporting me and supporting the vision.”
In closing, and as the icing on the cake, a generous donation of $20,000 by Harold T. Dukes, president of Children’s Cancer Cooperative Inc., from Summerfield, South Carolina proved to be a testimony to MacKinnon’s effort and the strength of the cause.
For more information about A Kid’s Place, or to donate to the Kids Charity of Tampa Bay, Inc., please visit www.kidscharitytb.com or call 843-1833.