When it comes to showcasing and promoting the interests of its youngest citizens, the city of Pembroke Pines, Fla., doesn’t “kid” around. Not only does the mayor’s office host an annual all-day party to celebrate this special constituency, but the city has recently been given an award for an initiative that helps parents, guardians, advocates and educators raise those same children right.
On June 21, Pembroke Pines held the 10th annual Mayor’s Kids’ Day, a summer kickoff event filled with fun and freebies. Modeled after a 2003 event held in Green Bay, Wis., it was an idea that was adopted by the United States Conference of Mayors in 2009 and implemented by Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank C. Otis a year later.
According to Brian Spector, Pembroke Pines media contact, Kids’ Day is designed to show children how important they are to their families, how city government connects to their lives and how important they are to the future of Pembroke Pines.
“We hold the event on a Friday in June as a way to celebrate our kids with games and giveaways,” he said. “The event is coordinated by the special events staff and includes free ice cream, bowling, tennis, swimming, admission to art galleries, raffle prizes and more.”
One of the highlights of the day is “Lunch with the Mayor,” a midday bash held at the Charles F. Dodge City Center that consists of food, costumed characters, dancing and more prizes. Not only is the event a favorite among the children, but it is also a favorite of the mayor.
“The youth in our city are very important. They are our future and this special day is a great way to show them how much we care as a city and as their community. We have such a great time and I especially love hosting the lunch and getting to meet them all,” Otis said.
Throughout the day, children are encouraged to visit and explore area businesses where they are given the VIP treatment in the form of special gifts, tours and discounts. And while the focus is on fun rather than teaching children how their local government works, the event has grown so much over the past decade that there has been an increase in civic engagement.
“It’s great that our businesses take part in this special day—it’s a great way for them to engage, and it’s a great way for our children to become acquainted with all that the city has to offer. We care about our residents and our businesses and bringing them together for a special day just seems like the natural thing to do,” Otis said.
In addition to the decade of dedication to the Kids’ Day event, Pembroke Pines recently received a City Spirit Award from the Florida League of Cities in appreciation for its Raising Positive Children initiative.
Raising Positive Children is an ongoing series of talks for parents and guardians of school-aged children, educators and advocates that is designed to call attention to and find solutions for the many issues both parents and children face at home and at school. Hosted by the city, Pembroke Pines Commissioner Iris A. Siple, West Campus Charter School Principal Michael Castellano and the Education Round Table Forum, the discussions
center on a number of important topics such as: coping with stressors in today’s challenging world; growing up in a digital age; cyberbullying; and suicide prevention.
“With each presentation, we’ve had parents thank us for sharing such important information and addressing critical issues facing today’s parents and children,” Otis said. “We are grateful to Commissioner Siple, Principal Castellano and the Educational Round Table Forum for all of their hard work in creating this community engagement program and educational series.”
The City Spirit Award is one of three honors bestowed by the Florida League of Cities, and it recognizes a single, specific citywide effort to successfully address a local need. The community was given a trophy for the initiative and will be recognized at a commission meeting and at the League’s annual conference.
Otis said the recognition of Pembroke Pines’ efforts to showcase its children is one of which he is especially proud.
According to Otis, “We often think of Pembroke Pines as a large city with a small-town feel—children grow up, leave and come home to Pembroke Pines with great memories. Isn’t that the goal of any city?”