December 2020

Page 52

Children First Early childhood education and family strengthening services for local children and families in need When Ted and Ethna Wishnie of Sarasota walk through the halls of Children First in Sarasota, they are touched by the success stories, the gratitude, and the children’s songs. That zest for life reminds them of Eric Wishnie, Ted’s son and Ethna’s stepson, whose death at age 45 came amidst a successful broadcast career as senior producer for NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw that left a global footprint, producing everything from interviews with world leaders to Olympic coverage. “Eric through his education, learning, and traveling had such a wonderful, fulfilling life. We wanted to honor that as we feel education gives children a chance to prosper,” says Ethna. Children First serves hundreds of Sarasota County’s most vulnerable children from birth to age five, as well as their families through multiple locations. Its mission of strengthening children and families by improving the quality of their lives through a comprehensive approach to development, education, health, and well-being includes Head Start programs and Families First Institute classes for all family members. Ted had established, successful managerial careers in the retail and restaurant industries; Ethna did so in the financial sector. They also are proud grandparents. What Ted calls the ‘famous walk’ through Children First headquarters more than 10 years ago ultimately led to their support.

“You become committed,” he says. “Children First assisted us in creating the Eric Wishnie Memorial Fund.” The Wishnies made their first bequest to Children First in their wills at the time and recently doubled it. Eric’s sister and brother-in-law Dawn and Mitchell Epstein are also contributors. “We love that when they take care of a child, it encompasses the whole family,” Ethna notes. “It is a wholesome way to teach children, break unhealthy cycles, and put them on a level playing field.”

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