Community-funded initiatives progress at Boca Grande Preschool

February 5, 2021
By Marcy Shortuse

BY MARGUERITE TREMELIN – Even in troubled times, there are causes for celebration. Five of them are right here at Boca Grande Preschool. Less than one year ago, on March 2, 2020, just before the country started shutting down, the Boca Grande Preschool launched an exuberant new fundraiser: The Beach Ball at The Gasparilla Inn Beach Club.

Beach Ball Chair Janice Hursen and her team envisioned something new to encourage giving – an auction without boat rides, dinners, golf rounds or travel.

“We had five critical needs at the preschool, and we thought these alone would garner generous giving from our guests,” Hursen explained. “We were hopeful, but overwhelmed by what happened. Our guests cared so much about our kids and the preschool, that they fully funded all five projects in less than 30 minutes, over $200,000!”

That, Hursen said, was just the beginning of remarkable accomplishments at BGP in 2020.

“We were determined to respond to this magnitude of generosity with immediate results,” she explained. “We got right to work and even during the enormous challenge of keeping a preschool open during a pandemic, BGP board members and Preschool Director Kimi Harms set out to put these programs in place.”

Not quite one year later, here’s an update on BGP’s five  initiatives.

New Playground/BGP Grounds Improvements: BGP is re-imagining the preschool grounds, bringing rise to an adventurous, engaging play space for lively, curious preschoolers. At the same time, this project will address less fun, but still critical issues involving grading, drainage, exterior walls and more. Board President Angela Steffan reports much progress as architectural drawings and accompanying surveys are ready to present to the Boca Grande Historic Board. Work will begin as soon as the Preschool plans are approved.


Special thanks to major funding from Marcia & David Scott, Janice & Wayne Hursen, Carolyn & Doug Comrie, Fran Edwardson, and an Bruce and Kate Carbonari.

New Security System: Board Member Jeff Swift took charge of extensive research, getting input from law enforcement and understanding the particular safety needs at BGP. In just three months, Stanley Security installed an integrative high-tech system including a full battery of monitors, cameras, entry system and communication capabilities.

Project Status: COMPLETE

Special thanks to major funding from Carolyn & Doug Comrie and an anonymous donor.

New Curriculum with STEM: After significant research and a test run by Kimi Harms and senior staff over the summer, the Boca Grande Preschool launched Experience Preschool and Toddler Curriculum. This program combines child development theories and brain research with a unique model of teacher support, child experience and family engagement. You can learn more about it at

This program joins Boca Grande Preschool’s FUNDATIONS Pre-K Activities for smooth transition to The Island School, which also uses FUNDATIONS.

Project Status: COMPLETE

Special thanks to major funding from Mary & Neely Kountze, Kathy LaPoint, Margo & Bob Freeman, Nancy Morrison, Diedre & Brian Clingen, Peter Scott-Hansen, Lisa Emanuel, Nicole & Jim Benson, Dana & Joe Robinette, Louise & Ben Scott, Prudence & Terry Pigott, Marguerite & Scott Tremelin, Nell & Hank Cox, Lucy & Jerome Rose, Martha & Steve Smith

Read Aloud 15 Minutes Lending Library: Board Member Diane Johnson is overseeing establishment of the Boca Grande Preschool Read Aloud 15 Minutes Lending Library, with accompanying programs to inspire early love of reading.

During the onset of COVID and obvious issues with lending books, the preschool gave each child their own copy of the popular “Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?” along with a flyer from and sign language pictures for each animal and color in the story. Diane Johnson is sourcing books found on the readings lists from Experience Curriculum along with other titles to be available on library carts in each classroom.

Project Status:  WELL UNDERWAY 

Special thanks to major funding from Candace Kendle & Chris Bergen, Linda Fairstein & Mike Goldberg.

Teacher Wish Lists: Boca Grande Preschool teachers continue to expand their Wish Lists for toys and classroom equipment while awaiting two critical events: getting the pandemic under control so toys and equipment can be shared, and completion of the storage room renovation (as part of the Playground/Grounds Project, also underway) so there is a place to keep them. Never the less, the teachers were overwhelmed by the generosity of donations to their wish lists, and the community enthusiasm for their work with our island’s littlest learners.


Special thanks for major funding from: Stephanie & Ed Vick, Pat Chapman, Kitty Jenkins, Nora Lea & Ed Reefe, Barbara & Ed Wilson, Carole & Gerry Miller.

Boca Grande Preschool’s fundraising year began anew in October with the 2020 fall appeal.  The community responded generously and Boca Grande Preschool is especially grateful to these donors who provided leadership gifts in Fall 2020. They are The William Stamps Farish Fund, The August A. Busch III Charitable Trust, Kate & Bruce Carbonari, Jennifer & Bud Gruenberg V & L Marx Foundation and The Candace Kendle & Chris Bergen Charitable Gift Fund. BG Preschool will gratefully acknowledge all fall campaign donors in the Boca Beacon after completing reaching its goal.

The momentum continues with February Phase II Fundraising.  An additional $117,000 is needed to sustain Boca Grande Preschool through this year. Without Beach Ball 2021, canceled in the interest of pandemic safety, the BGP Board is energetically engaged in securing the remaining funds from those who contributed at the event last March.  “At our inaugural Beach Ball, the community gave generously to an auction without the usual prerequisites,” Hursen recalled.  “When those same folks help us in this final stretch without any event at all, that will be real cause for celebration at the Beach Club in March 2022!”

To make a tax-deductible donation to sustain Boca Grande Preschool through 2021, send a check payable to Boca Grande Preschool; PO Box 1356; Boca Grande, FL 33921.