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Filling days with art; kids' hero wins honor

My son got a dose of culture Tuesday when he attended a 45-minute interactive Florida Orchestra concert, and, thanks to a new calendar, that may not be the last time he is immersed in the arts.

The premiere edition of the Tampa Bay Cultural Calendar was unveiled and it is a valuable tool for parents looking to take their kids beyond Beyblades and Chuck E. Cheese's.

Each month features a specific topic, such as Black History Month or MOSI's Titanic exhibit, and it lists an array of activities every day around Tampa Bay. I have to confess, I had no idea Largo is home to the Florida Botanical Gardens, or that admission to the Tampa Museum of Art is free every Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon.

The calendar is underwritten by MetLife. Local sponsors include the Tampa Bay Business Committee for the Arts, the Arts Council of Hillsborough County and the Pinellas County Arts Council.

The calendars will be distributed to 50,000 fourth- and fifth-graders in Hillsborough and Pinellas.

Hillsborough County sheriff's Maj. Elaine White considers helping children part of her charge in life.

She knows how much difference the aid of others made in her life as she rose from a migrant camp childhood to division commander of the Orient Road Jail.

"If it wasn't for people like you, instead of running a jail I might be in jail," White told the audience at Tuesday's annual Leadership Tampa Alumni luncheon.

White received the Parke Wright III Award at the luncheon. Wright, the late Lykes Bros. executive, developed Leadership Tampa for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce in the 1970s. The award is presented each year to a Leadership Tampa member who makes a significant difference in the community.

White, who has never missed a day of work in 22 years, has been in charge at Orient Road since 1996. She also operates her own motivational and seminar training business, the Institute for Career Development, and is a professional model.

Most important, White leads 60 Orient Road Jail employees who volunteer each year to help local children. In 2001, the volunteers provided 2,000 pairs of shoes to migrant kids.

The list of nominees for the Wright Award was impressive this year: Tampa police Maj. Jane Castor; CDC of Tampa president Chloe Coney; Hardin Construction business development director Dianne Jacob; A.D. Morgan president Rebecca Smith; and Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick managing partner Greg Yadley.

Prevent Blindness Florida received the $10,000 Philanthropy In Action grant at the Leadership Tampa Alumni luncheon. The grant is funded by the alumni and the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay through the foundation's Robert and Sharon Blanchard Fund.

Prevent Blindness will use the money to test 725 preschool children for eye diseases and problems.

The leadership alumni hope to double the grant next year and present $20,000 to a nonprofit organization.

Jack Harris, co-host of AM Tampa Bay on WFLA-AM 970, was named an honorary member of the Rough Riders krewe on Tuesday. Harris joked he will now go through training sessions such as beer-drinking and bead-throwing.

At least I think he was joking.

That's all I'm saying.

_ Ernest Hooper can be reached at Hoopersptimes.com or 226-3406.

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