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PARC upgrade accelerates with gift from Tom and Mary James

Bill DeYoung



From left: PARC board chair Michael Bice, President and CEO Michelle Detweiler, Tom James, Mary James. Photo provided.

Philanthropists Tom and Mary James, whose Museum of Western and Wildlife Art contains their private collection – one of the largest in the country – have gifted $2 million to the PARC Center for Disabilities. It is the largest donation in the 71-year history of the facility, which serves children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Tom James retired as CEO of Raymond James Financial in 2010, as and Chairman of the Board seven years later. His current title is Chairman Emeritus.

The gift is earmarked for a new building, the Children’s Services Center, which will serve as a new home for PARC’s existing and future programs for children and families. This includes the early intervention preschool, the Caregiver Relief Program and the Family Focus Program, all vital elements of support.

“We’ve been talking about this, literally, for 10 years,” said PARC President and CEO Michelle Detweiler. The building that houses those programs, she explained, “was built in the ‘60s, and is not adequate.” The new center will also feature three specially designed playgrounds and provide comprehensive educational and therapeutic interventions.

Detweiler said the Children’s Services Center is a $10M project, with half of the total already in the bank before the James’ gift.

The donation, the largest in PARC history, “elevates what we’re doing,” according to Detweiler. “It gives our community the confidence that we’re doing the right thing. Without this program, and without their support, it would be very difficult to communicate the importance that these programs provide. There’s no other services that do the comprehensive work that we do for children with developmental disabilities.”

PARC’s work for adults is also transformative. “We just had a Celebration of Life for one of our residents,” Detweiler said. “He lived with us for 37 years. He died at 83 years old.

“That’s amazing. People with developmental disabilities never live that long. And I’m very proud of the care that we give, and the service that we give, to people with developmental disabilities. We provide a lifelong service. People that started with us, in our preschool, are still with us in their later years.

“It’s important that we make visible something that is invisible to most.”

Viniks provide Fairgrounds tickets

Fairgrounds St. Pete, the immersive art experience in the Warehouse Arts District, got a shot in the arm for its education initiative “Art For All” with a commitment from Jeff and Penny Vinik to provide 2,000 complimentary tickets, per month, to Tampa Bay public schools and approved nonprofits. The program will continue monthly for one year – a total of 240,000 “free” tickets.

Fairgrounds opened in 2021, with the Viniks as lead investor. More than 70 Florida artist have so far contributed to the walk-through “Florida” experience. Educational activities include a safari to find and identify 20 native bird species (created by artist Cecilia Lueza) and a riddle-based scavenger hunt guiding them throughout the experience with the help of rhyming clues.

“We believe Fairgrounds St. Pete has had a profound impact in the Tampa Bay region, from showcasing the talents of our local artists to engaging the community with meaningful programming and events,” said Penny and Jeff Vinik in a prepared statement.

















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    John Donovan

    March 21, 2024at5:53 pm


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