Orlando was the 7th stop for the bi-partisan Milk Party on its tour through the state to rally citizens behind the Children’s Movement of Florida
More than 500 Central Florida Residents gathered at Dr. Philips High School on the evening of Tuesday, September 14, for a rally hosted by the Milk Party. The event was just one of the Children’s Movement of Florida’s 15 planned stops throughout the state, on a journey from Pensacola to Key West.
As participants made their way past stilt walkers and costumed characters into the auditorium, anticipation began to build until it erupted in the sound of the high school’s drum line which took the stage for a brief performance. Orlando Magic Community Ambassadors Nick Anderson and Bo Outlaw served as masters of ceremonies for the evening and Comedian Chad Shapiro entertained children and adults alike with his whimsical humor. But when former Miami Herald publisher-turned-child-advocate David Lawrence began to speak, the atmosphere became much more solemn.
“Florida is the 14th largest state and nearly 200,000 children are born here every year,” stated Lawrence. “[Yet] one-third of our children are not ready to enter Kindergarten on time… 62,000 children in Orange and Osceola Counties alone do not have access to health care… [and] three-fourths of our state’s young people cannot enter the military due to academic, criminal or physical disqualifications… [This] situation will not improve on its own.”
With such grim statistics, the bi-partisan Milk Party wants Floridians to take action. This bi-partisan group is calling for several key points of both governmental and social change on behalf of Florida’s most vulnerable citizens – our children. These initiatives include access to healthcare and pre-kindergarten programs, an increase in early identification and diagnosis of special needs and a rising increase in the availability of quality mentors to guide children into adulthood. Party leaders acknowledge the struggling Floridian economy, but are convinced that smarter spending – rather than tax increases – will be able to provide the needed funding for such incentives.
As former Lieutenant Governor of Florida Tony Jennings stated from the stage, “If you give a child the right start, they’ll turn into successful adults… If we put our money into the front end of the system, we won’t have to spend it at the back end. Tonight is about influencing the policy makers; they will listen to all of us because they’ll have to.”
Several Family Services staff members attended this after-hours rally including Wraparound Specialist, Teresa Burt; Family Team Conferencing Manager, Danielle Collette; Public Allies Site Director, Karla Radka; Public Allies Program Manager, Jessica Brown; Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Adoption Recruiter, Shanda Morrman; and Communications Specialist, Kristin Schendel. Chief Executive Officer Gregory J. Kurth also attended and led the expression of staff support by visiting with several party leaders and event attendees.
“We support the call of the Children’s Movement to our elected officials to put the needs of our children before railroads, arenas and other projects which are not necessarily bad ideas, but are certainly not as important as the lives of our children – the future leaders of our state,” said Gregory Kurth.
Other rally speakers from the Milk Party included Sergio Bendixen, Leader of Strategy; Da-Venya Armstrong, State Coordinator for Onsite Production; and Dick Batchelor, consultant, former Florida Legislator and well-know children’s advocate. Bachelor closed the rally with several instructions to the crowd. Family Services of Metro Orlando partner, Leah Shepherd, was among the Orlando rally organizers.
“Always have passion for what you’re doing… Have confidence and faith that what you’re doing will make a difference… [And] be prepared to unapologetically tell your leaders when they are doing something wrong” he urged. “Failing to communicate with our elected officials is like clapping with one hand.”
True to this philosophy, the Milk Party announced plans to a gubernatorial debate dealing exclusively with child welfare issues to be held at the University of Miami on October 16, 2010 at 7 p.m. Thus far, Democratic candidate Alex Sink has agreed to participate in the debate while Republican Rick Scott has not yet given consent. Rally attendees were asked to call Scott’s campaign headquarters to request that he participate in the debate.
Milk, cookies and goody bags were handed out at the end of the event.