Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A Kid's Place honors founder Dottie Berger MacKinnon

VALRICO — Many kids' lives will be changed by Dottie Berger MacKinnon, even though many of those kids may never meet her.

But for years, even decades, Berger MacKinnon will be there in the courtyard of her beloved A Kid's Place facility — in a bronze-cast reminder of her generosity.

The former Hillsborough County commissioner and founder of the Valrico-based temporary residence center for abused or neglected children was honored there Friday by more than 100 friends and supporters.

Her husband, Sandy, presented a special gift just in time for Valentine's Day: plans for a statue on the grounds of A Kid's Place of Berger MacKinnon reading to a child.

A survivor of breast cancer, Berger MacKinnon was diagnosed last year with cancer of the bile duct.

"Sandy wants the kids to know about her. He wants the kids to see her," said event organizer Cathy Unruh, tearfully reading a message for him because he said he would probably cry. "It will weather the storm, just as Dottie weathered the storm."

Before A Kid's Place opened in 2009, kids taken from abusive homes were often separated from siblings as they bounced around the foster care system.

Rescued children now stay at the comfortable, colorful houses at A Kid's Place for up to a month while officials work to find a more stable home for groups of brothers and sisters.

Just this week, the center was licensed to house another 12 kids, bringing capacity to 60. Almost 50 are there now.

To make room, Berger MacKinnon said, it will open a fifth residence hall. Organizers said Friday it will bear the name Dottie Berger MacKinnon House.

Never one to bypass an opportunity, Berger MacKinnon took the microphone to say thank you and added a lucrative offer:

"For $400,000, I'll put your name on that house!" she said.

The fundraising arm of the operation, Kids Charity of Tampa Bay, is trying to match a $1 million gift from Sandy MacKinnon intended to pay off the center's debt.

Opening the place cost $5.2 million — $3.5 million of which was paid off soon after. Then there's Sandy MacKinnon's gift, plus $868,000 raised in the matching effort so far.

Between plugs for donations, those who know and work with Berger MacKinnon lauded her dedication and tenacity.

Sheriff David Gee talked about how tough it was to break up siblings after removing them from inadequate parents. It tore him up to see three kids sitting in three separate patrol cars, headed for different places in the middle of the night. But no more.

"Dottie taught us a lot," Gee said.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi called her "an angel here on Earth."

And under the gray, chilly skies, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio declared it "a beautiful day."

Kim Wilmath can be reached at (813) 661-2442 or

A Kid's Place honors founder Dottie Berger MacKinnon 02/11/11 [Last modified: Friday, February 11, 2011 11:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Comedian and activist Dick Gregory dies at 84


    The comedian Dick Gregory rose to national prominence in the early 1960s as a black satirist whose audacious style of humor was biting, subversive and topical, mostly centered on current events, politics and above all, racial tensions. His trademark was the searing punchline.

    Dick Gregory, a comedian, activist and author, died Saturday. [Tribune News Service, 2011]
  2. Winter Haven police investigating armed robbery at Dollar General


    WINTER HAVEN — Police are investigating an armed robbery Friday night of a Dollar General store on W Lake Ruby Drive.

  3. Rowdies settle for draw at home


    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  4. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.