As we reflect on the past year and various things that the Lauren’s Kids Foundation has accomplished, I want to begin by thanking each of you for your financial support, words of encouragement and for those of you who put in time at our various events or Lauren’s statewide Walk. We truly cannot thank all of you enough.
At the first of this year, we began our pursuit of legislation that we felt was critically important to the people of Florida. We began by drafting and seeking sponsors for legislation that made Florida a true mandatory reporting state in relation to childhood sexual abuse. What we learned from the Penn State case was that there were holes in Florida’s reporting law. While we had previously believed Florida was a mandatory reporting state, we were not.
This year, we were successful in our legislative efforts because of and as a result of our bill sponsors, Representative Chris Dorworth and Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto. They received significant additional support from Senate President Mike Haridopolos, Speaker of the House Dean Cannon and Speaker Designate Will Weatherford and Senate President Designate Don Gaetz. Not only did we make Florida a true mandatory reporting state, the legislation also provides significant felony penalties for failure to report – and when colleges and universities willfully and knowingly fail to report, a $1 million per offense fine will also apply. Florida’s law is now the toughest and most protective of any State in the country (read more about that here). We were also successful in persuading the legislature to adopt a victim’s relocation expense fund for victims of sexual assault. That was a particularly huge victory, since we were unable to get it done in the prior year.
Early in the year, we also began the pursuit of changes in Federal Law in Washington, D.C. Lauren traveled to Capitol Hill to provide written testimony to the U.S. Senate Sub-Committee on Children and Families, chaired by Senator Barbara Mikulski. We have strongly encouraged through draft legislation that Congress act to put teeth in the Clery Act (Campus Reporting Safety Act) and more teeth in the Adam Walsh Act to better protect our children from predators, pedophiles and offenders.
As the fall and winter turned to spring, Lauren laced up her shoes again for her 1500-mile, statewide ‘Walk in My Shoes,’ together with many other members of the Lauren’s Kids team and folks from all over the state. Lauren again raised awareness over the 39 days of the Walk, touching tens of thousands of individuals with education and awareness, while advocating for the passage of laws to better protect kids. The walk is also intended to empower individuals and let them know that it will always be “OK to Tell.” Special thanks to our major walk sponsors, Publix, Ashbritt, Hilton Worldwide, Dade Media, Metro Signs, Magic City Casino, AT&T, Miami Dolphins, Miami Heat, Carnaval Foundation, Florida Panthers Hockey Team, AutoNation, TNT Fireworks, Dwyane Wade and Wade’s World Foundation, Perkins Family Foundation, Exodus Women’s Center, Village at Gulfstream Park, Gary Phillips and Phillips, Cantor, and Shalek, Bags to Go, Miami Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman, Delores and Guy Spearman, The Rubin Group, Leesa Burgess, Gotta Half It, Alonzo Mourning Charities and the Mourning Family Charities, Aventura Worldwide Transportation, The Gaston Cantens Family and Florida Crystals, Carlisle Development, Aventura Mall, Stephen Greensberger, MAM Title, ATS and Vitas Healthcare Corp.
Spring gave way to summer and Lauren began to work on curriculum advancements. She prepared to take the Safer, Smarter Kids curriculum into Florida’s early childhood classrooms and began working to develop programs to protect those individuals with developmental disabilities, while also working on programs to better train individuals related to sex trafficking in the foster care programs. In addition to our foundation work, spring always signals the annual Reid and Fiorentino Call of the Game Dinner and Celebrity Golf Classic. It raised substantial funds that allow us to continue our mission. A special thanks to Tony Fiorentino and Eric Reid, Sunsports, Ted Ballard, Coach Spo, Coach Rothstein, Eric Woolworth, Pat Riley, Steve Stowe, Andy Elisberg – everyone.
Summer has now turned into fall and we have hopefully put the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State matter behind us as we’ve worked to tell America that such behavior cannot be tolerated. Recently, we worked to raise awareness about the CEO of a community social service agency in Broward County who clearly had children in his sights, which could not be tolerated.
Yes, we have so much to be thankful for this year, but most importantly, we thank all of our partners and all of our friends, too numerous to name them all. However, we certainly want to thank our Board of Directors, Charlie Fernandes, Manny Kadre, Jennifer Levin, and Randy Perkins; and we want to again thank our partners, Eric Reid and Tony Fiorentino from the Miami Heat who help provide so much support, along with our golf and dinner committee including Charlie Fernandes, Keith Kenner, Bruce Keir, Heather Keir, Bruno Dede, Carmel Barrau, M.D., Dean Baker, Harold Cole, Jayne Weintraub, Neil Goodman, Michael Wohl, Steve Stowe, Stuart Rubin, Susan Renneisen, Joel Furnari, Doug Jolly, Charlie de Lucca, Shawn de Rosa, Javier Morales, Samantha Jarrell, Fudge Browne, Bruce Fishbein, Mike Browdy, Nathaniel Horenstein and Joe Vega. Then there are our friends and partners at Publix Supermarkets, Bill Fauerbach, Kim Reynolds, Gary Korel; they do so much to help and are heroes in what we do. Our friends at Hilton Worldwide, who make such a tremendous difference in our ability to cover and reach our goal of walking 1,500 miles each year and are invaluable to our Walk mission; Tom Kennedy, CFO, and Jennifer Silberman, Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, our true difference makers. Our partners from Metro Signs, Bruno Dede and his entire team – what would we do without you!? Our friends and partners at Dade Media, Keith Kenner and Art Hertz, and all of partners at the outdoor media companies, Clear Channel Communications, and CBS. Then we have our partners at the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence and our partners at the Monique Burr Foundation, who help make sure we respond to so many human needs. We should never forget our friendship and partnership with our board member, Randall Perkins and his family their 4 Girls Foundation, and his entire team at Ashbritt Environmental – without their constant support and commitment we would not succeed in so much of what we do, especially in our annual Walk in My Shoes. Manny Kadre, also one of our board members, and the constant support that he and the entire team at AutoNation provide in helping us make a difference – they are constantly there for us. And then there’s the ever present Stuart Miller, Chairman of the Lennar Companies and the Lennar Foundation with Marshall Ames, who have not only provided significant financial support, but have served as mentors for Lauren in her growth as the CEO and Founder of Lauren’s Kids. We would also like to express our thanks to the Florida Association of Crime Stoppers, Vega Creative Group, Endomondo Promotional Associates, Pittman Law Group, Noble Cause Foundation, Martin and Cindi Zilber and Sharp. To all of you, we thank you. We honestly thank you from the very bottom of our hearts. Finally, what would we do without Ron Sachs, Michelle Ubben, Jessica Clark, Claire VanSusteren, Marilyn Seits and the entire Ron Sachs Communications team? Thank you all for helping save children and families.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of our many friends and supporters, we are truly thankful for your involvement.
Ronald L. Book, P.A.
Chairman of the Lauren’s Kids Foundation