Dottie Berger MacKinnon, founder of A Kid's Place in Tampa and longtime child advocate, passed away on Sunday, October 13, 2013 at the age of 71.
Brandon, Florida - Inside the doors of A Kid's Place and just past the giraffe, there's a portrait of founder Dottie Berger MacKinnon. But it's the cheery, home-like atmosphere at the children's shelter that really portrays the spirit of Berger MacKinnon.
"She really believed we needed to do the right thing by the children in our community," said A Kid's Place Executive Director Virginia Johnson. "She knew they had been traumatized by what they had been through and she really wanted a safe place."
A Kid's Place shelters children who have been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect; with an emphasis on keeping siblings together. Berger MacKinnon, who had nine siblings herself, saw the need of keeping children together and helped raise millions to open the shelter doors in 2009.
"The only thing they have is each other- those kids- and she changed it," said an emotional Julie Weintraub, a friend of Berger MacKinnon's. "She said, 'That's not right.'"
And children's causes were nothing new. Before A Kid's Place, Berger MacKinnon helped found Joshua House, another safe haven for kids in crisis. And she continued to be a relentless fundraiser for both shelters.
"She used to tease that her friends didn't want to see her coming anymore, because they knew she was going to be asking for more support," said Johnson with a chuckle.
The former Hillsborough County Commissioner survived breast cancer and on Sunday lost her battle with intestinal cancer. She was 71. But even in the end, her focus was on the kids.
Johnson said, "Within 10 days of her death, she was still calling meetings. She was just a force."