Children’s Week at the Capitol

Children’s Week at the Capitol

What is Children’s Week?  Why should I take notice?  How can I participate? Who is it for?

Year after year, as you have heard about Children’s Week in the news and seen pictures around town, you may have asked yourself these questions.  The time to be in the know is now, and the answer to the last question above, and most important one, is YOU!

You….parents, grandparents, educators, caretakers, volunteers…Children’s Week is for you!  Children’s Week is the largest and most widely attended event at the Capitol annually, but it’s not just another event at the State Capitol.  The event is designed for all children and families in Tallahassee to attend and it’s entirely free.  Says Jason Zaborske, Children’s Week Statewide Coordinator,

[quote]Children’s Week is one of Tallahassee’s best kept events.  When parents realize all of the free and fun activities taking place, they immediately make plans to bring their child(ren) to the State Capitol.  It’s the best day of the year to bring your children to the State Capitol.[/quote]

Below you’ll read and learn about Children’s Week, how you can become involved and what events there are for you and your children to attend.  Have a question?  Children’s Week wants to hear from you and welcome you to join in to the best and biggest Children’s Week our state has seen yet….Children’s Week 2014!

Contact Children’s Week

What is Children’s Week


Florida’s Children’s Week is a special annual celebration filled with joyful singing voices of young children, the colorful “hanging of hands” and dedication of thousands of child advocate volunteers, capturing the true spirit and commitment that Florida has made to our children and youth.

This special event and labor of love by so many of the organizers and volunteers has been a long journey that officially began in 1996 during the tenure of Governor Lawton Chiles. Governor Chiles passed unexpectedly on December 12, 1998, only three weeks before the end of his second term as Governor of Florida. The loss of one of the most revered child advocates with a distinguished 40 year career in public service that included 18 years as a U.S. Senator touched the hearts of millions in the state and nation.

From this sorrow, the Lawton and Rhea Chiles Award had its beginning as a tribute and lasting memorial to his legacy. Governor Chiles beloved wife Rhea, who shared his commitment to ensure children are healthy, safe, and have access a good education, was the first recipient of the Chiles Award in 1999 that is now part of our state heritage.

The precursor for Children’s Week was Children’s Day, spearheaded by the Florida Children’s Forum that became law in 1983. To bring more attention and build a broader base of support, the Children’s Forum invited the State Coordinating Council for Early Childhood Services, primarily focused on early education, to join with the Children’s Forum in coordinating the statewide activities in 1996. Other organizations that held activities recognizing children’s issues also agreed to collaborate and schedule activities during the same week to strengthen the focus and impact for children. Later, however, the State Coordinating Council was subsequently removed from the statute so a Children’s Week committee was formed to plan and coordinate activities. In 2002, Children’s Day was changed in statute to Parents and Children’s Day under the leadership of Rep. Loranne Ausley recognizing the contributions of families in supporting their healthy growth and development.

To its great credit, the Florida’s Children’s Forum initiated the signature, “hanging of the hands” tradition at the Capital beginning in 1986 thanks to the efforts of the child care central agencies. The goal for the hanging of the hands was to provide a visual and powerful statement that every set of hands represented a child who was impacted by the policy decisions of the legislature. That goal remains the same today. The Forum could have maintained its proprietary role with the trademark “hands”, but they graciously relinquished it to support the broader Children’s Week effort in 2005. This has been key to the success of Children’s Week and a great tribute to the Forum’s vision and collaborative spirit.

There were challenges along the journey. To save and expand the Children’s Week concept beyond the focus on early childhood education and development, United Way of Florida stepped up to facilitate a collaborative process that has been most successful in recent years. Truly this was a major factor that continued the momentum and potential sustainability for the Children’s Week event.

Over the 18 years Children’s Week has grown beyond early expectations. The halls of the State Capital are filled with the electric energy of children and families, colorful displays in the courtyard, along with a robust array of events and workshops for all ages. Many communities now coordinate local Children’s Week events in their county to further promote the commitment to Florida’s children.

The Lawton and Rhea Chiles Award banquet remains the center piece of the week of celebration. Each year a statewide nomination form is distributed by the Chiles Award Committee to seek potential candidates who have made an outstanding contribution for children. Those nomination forms are reviewed by an independent group of experts, The Southeastern Evaluation Association. They send their ranked recommendations to the Chiles Award Committee for final approval.

Each year the banquet dinner brings together hundreds of child advocates who enjoy the entertainment of talented children, special motivational speakers, and the special announcement of the winner of the Chiles Advocacy Award.

Chiles Advocacy Award winners are Floridians who have been dedicated throughout their careers to improving the lives of children and families, and who have successfully engaged others to promote policies and programs that benefit those children and families. The recipients exemplify the integrity, dedication, and commitment to improving the lives of Florida’s children and families to which we all aspire. The list of recipients over the years is impressive and represents a diverse group of child advocates.

Children’s Week will continue to bring together children’s advocates to deliver the message that every child in Florida must be healthy, ready to learn, and able to achieve their full potential. The Chiles Advocacy Award will continue to recognize individuals and communities who provide the leadership necessary to ensure that this happens.

Get Involved

Children’s Week offers a variety of ways to get involved. Join a Children’s Week Committee for a great hands-on opportunity to inspire the events and activities planned for 2014. We host approximately 5 conference calls for each committee leading up to Children’s Week. When you sign up for a committee you instantly become part of the design process from beginning to end.

Committees are meeting now to plan the full 2014 Children’s Week Schedule of Events.

Committees, Volunteer Opportunities & Corporate Partnership

The Local Events Committee identifies local coordinators and provides technical assistance to those groups organizing events and activities in all 67 Florida counties. Local coordinators are encouraged to begin setting their dates for local Children’s Week events and encouraging children to decorate hand artto hang at the State Capitol.  Deadline to mail hand art to Tallahassee is March 29, 2013. For more information on the Hanging of the Hands and mailing instructions, please click here. Local Event Coordinators are encouraged to submit their local event dates, times and descriptions no later than January 10, 2014 using the online form.

If you reside in Tallahassee, or plan to attend the “Children’s Capitol for a Day”, and you want to help us organize the largest event that takes place at the State Capitol…then we encourage you to join the Activities Committee. This Committee is responsible for planning the Hanging of the HandsLegislative Reading Cornerguided tours of the new and old Capitol buildingsfree breakfast and lunchand helps organize more than 100 partner booths providing free interactive activities and information to thousands of children and families at the State Capitol.


We have secured our partnership with Liquid Creative Studio as our Children’s Week media liaison to generate more news stories and articles for Children’s Week in 2014. We plan on increasing the spotlight on local stories of partners traveling to Children’s Week at the State Capitol, and the local events taking place in practically every county throughout Florida. We also plan to definitively focus on outreach through all of our social media sites includingFacebookTwitterYoutubeLinkedInPinterest and Instagram. Please join us, we are regularly updating our social media channels and we continue to share breaking news and host contests with prizes such as gift cards and free tickets to events.

  • Awards Dinner & Reception:


More than 400 advocates and business leaders attend the Children’s Week Awards Dinner & Reception each year, and this is the committee that plans this amazing event. Our committee has been working hard to update the 2014 dinner invitation and lining up all of our speakers includingFlorida Supreme Court Justice Pariente. This committee does it all and creates an amazing event every year. If you would like to be a part of the planning process for this years Awards Dinner please join our Dinner Committee and help us plan the premier networking event for Children’s Week.

The Chiles Advocacy Award Committee sets the guidelines for nomination and selection of the Chiles Advocacy Award. This committee recruits potential nominees, reviews all applications and makes recommendations for final approval. These recommendations then go to the independent Southeast Evaluation Association, for the final selection of the 2014 Chiles Advocacy Award winner, which is announced at the Awards Dinner & Reception. The 2014 nomination form is now available online, and nominations are now being accepted.

Children’s Week is a collaborative effort to put a spotlight on children’s issues throughout the year and specifically during Florida’s legislative session. We would not be able to provide all the wonderful activities each year, without the help of each and every one of our partners…thank you very much for your continued support.

If you are interested in becoming a partner, please review our 2014 Partnership Packet, and return your Partnership Form before Friday, November 22 to ensure maximum exposure and statewide media coverage. Please contact Statewide Coordinator, Jason Zaborske at or 850-251-7274 for information on becoming a partner.

Schedule of Events

April 6 – 11, 2014

Tens of thousands of paper cut-outs of Children’s hands decorated by children and their teachers are collected at child care centers and schools across the state and are hung throughout the Capitol Rotunda creating an amazing display of Children’s art.  Schools, child care centers, and individuals from across the state have been submitting hands to hang at the Capitol for many years, and we encourage everyone to participate in this time honored tradition.The official Hanging of the Hands will take place at the State Capitol Rotunda on Sunday, April 6, 2014 from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Artwork Instructions

Please use the following instructions to submit Children’s hand artwork:

Children’s hand artwork should be stapled onto string or ribbon vertically in lengths of 8 to 10 feet. Hands must be hung vertically and strung together before mailing. Please secure hands firmly to string/ribbon (see picture below). Please do not send individual hands without connecting them to string/ribbon. Please do not send large signs. You may decorate the hands with colorful artwork, stories and attach small pictures and posters (no larger than 11″ x 14″).

All artwork must be postmarked no later than Friday, March 29th and mailed to:

The Early Learning Coalition of the Big Bend Region
Northwood Centre
1940 N. Monroe Street, Suite 70
Tallahassee, FL 32303

If sending via mail, please list the contact information, organization and county the hands are being sent from. Please list your county name on the box, and on the back of the first set of hands and the last set of hands, so volunteers can hang the hands in the State Capitol Rotunda in order of counties.

If you plan to assist with the Hanging of the Hands at the Capitol (and we hope you will), you may volunteer to help hang artwork… it is really a wonderful experience to see the Capitol transformed!

Volunteers will meet Sunday, April 6 at 12:30 p.m. in the Capitol parking lot (behind House Office Building) on the corner of Jefferson St. and Adams St. in Tallahassee. Volunteers must arrive at 12:30 p.m. for mandatory volunteer orientation. Volunteers will receive instructions and help hang hands from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. You may also assist with delivering hand artwork to the Florida Legislature the Friday after the Hanging of the Hands. To volunteer, please fill out the Children’s Week Volunteer Form.

Click here to view the Hanging of the Hands Flyer

Click here to download the 2014 Volunteer Orientation sheet

Click here to download the Downtown Public Parking map

Monday, April 7 – Children’s Week Awards Dinner & Reception
This year the 2014 Community Innovation Awards will be presented, as well as the 2014 Chiles Advocacy Award. Join more than 400 guests as we kick-off Children’s Week in Tallahassee to honor and recognize Children’s Week Partners and non-profit leaders who dedicate their lives to Florida’s children and families. 
Tuesday, April 8 – Children’s Capitol for a Day
The State Capitol Rotunda & Capitol Courtyard is transformed into the “Children’s Capitol for a Day”. More than 5,000 children, parents, advocates, community leaders along with policy makers from throughout the state gather for a day of educational and interactive events & activities. Everyone can enjoy free breakfast and lunch, visit more than 100 partner booths, receive free giveaways, t-shirts, and meet with their legislators.  

Children’s Week Breakfast
Tuesday, April 8, 2014 • 8 to 10:00 a.m State Capitol Courtyard

Join us as we kick off the “Children’s Capitol for a Day” activities on Tuesday, April 8 with the Children’s Week Breakfast from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Children and families in attendance will receive a complimentary “Grab and Go Breakfast” for a healthy and nutritious way to start your day. Breakfast will feature milk, yogurt, granola and fruit.

Sign up for this event today!

Guided Tours of the Capitol

Monday – Wednesday, April 7-9, 2014 New and Old Capitol Buildings

New and Old Capitol buildings 
Bring your family, class or organization to the Capitol during Children’s Week and enjoy guided tours of the old and new Capitol buildings. Groups will tour the Florida State Capitol buildings during Legislative Session and learn more about Florida government, civics and state history. Tours last between 45 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes and provide a ‘live classroom’ for youth and adults to learn about Florida politics and civics.

Old Capitol Museum tours are available the following times:
Monday, April 7 – 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 12 p.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m.
Tuesday, April 8 –  9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 12 p.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m.
Wednesday, April 9 – 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 12 p.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m.

New Capitol tours are available the following times:
Monday, April 7 – 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m.
Tuesday, April 8 – 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m.
Wednesday, April 9 – 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m.

Register for a tour today and learn more about Florida’s history at Children’s Week!

Legislative Reading Corner
Tuesday, April 8, 2014 • 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. State Capitol Courtyard

Dozens of Florida Legislators will read to children throughout the day on the Courtyard of the State Capitol. Free books will be provided to all children who participate.

Reading Corner Times available on Tuesday, April 8:
9:30 a.m., 9:45 a.m., 10 a.m., 10:15 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 10:45 a.m., 11 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 11:45 a.m., 12 p.m., 12:15 p.m., 12:30 p.m., 12:45 p.m., 1 p.m., 1:15 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 1:45 p.m., 2 p.m.

Sign your school or class up as soon as possible to ensure their chance of reading with a Florida advocate!

Children’s Week Luncheon
Tuesday, April 8, 2014 • 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. State Capitol Courtyard

Thousands of attendees will receive complimentary healthy boxed lunches. Lunches are provided on a first come, first served basis. Advanced lunch reservations are accepted for large classes or groups traveling to Tallahassee.

Want to reserve your lunch? Do it here!

Youth Advocacy Workshop
Tuesday, April 8, 2014 • 1 to 2:30 p.m. Tallahassee City Hall

A fun and interactive advocacy workshop that will inspire a new generation of youth advocates. If you are in middle or high school, please join us at our Youth Advocacy Workshop to learn how to turn your passions into action and make a difference in your community! Created by Florida YouthSHINE, a youth driven group of child advocates, this workship will train the next generation of empowered teens. Have your voice heard!

If you would like to attend, e-mail your contact information to

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