When lawmakers arrived at the Florida Capitol on Monday, they found thousands of cutouts of brightly-colored children's hands hanging in the rotunda, signifying the start of Children's Week.
"They're awesome! We brought a lot up from Pasco, but when you put them all together, and the excitement with everybody volunteering to hang them and staple them – and now to see them all up is awesome," said Larnelle Scott.
She is the community outreach coordinator for the Guardian ad Litem program in the 6th Judicial Circuit, and she was among the dozens of volunteers who spent Sunday afternoon (1/21) hanging the hands in the Capitol rotunda. She'd brought 6 boxes of them to Tallahassee herself.
"Well, in Pasco I reached out to our school superintendent, because we have a relationship with him, and so the elementary schools and the after-school programs – they were in on it. And then we have a relationship with the library, so we reached out to the libraries and so they set up hand-making stations. And then I hosted a table with Pasco Kids First Family Fund Day, and we had to have an activity, so of course it was making hands,” she smiled.
The hands appear during the 3rd week of every legislative session, explained Children's Week coordinator Jason Zaborske – to remind lawmakers of their youngest constituents.
"It's really to bring different voices from different parts of the state to the state capitol to tell their story. And that's the most impactful thing that we can do as advocates is to make sure the constituents of policymakers make that long trek up here while those bills are being made, those big votes on budget and issues are coming up."
Children’s Week is a collaboration with the United Way of Florida, now in its 12th year. Zaborske said it has grown "tremendously" under the United Way's leadership.
"We've seen it grow to 100 different partner booths, a full-blown interactive reading spectacle at the capitol for 3,000 kids to get free books and have interactive stories read to them. It's definitely become a large advocacy event for young kids and youth and teenagers alike, so we have a lot of great activities spanning the whole spectrum of services for children and families."
Children’s Week also draws hundreds of advocates to a networking dinner each year, and supports more than 50 free community events statewide.