Hundreds Gathered to Honor Individuals Putting Kids First in Pinellas

May 05, 2023

On Friday, April 28th, nearly 600 Pinellas County community leaders and child advocates gathered at the St. Pete Coliseum to celebrate JWB’s annual awards luncheon with a theme of “Imagine.”

Last year, JWB celebrated its 75th anniversary, marking the milestone of our nation’s first independent board enacted to guard the rights and needs of children. And it’s hard to imagine where our county would be today had it not been for courageous leaders and citizens who had the foresight to tax themselves to invest in children’s futures.

JWB packed the room again this year to cheer on our amazing honorees:

  • Our KidsFirst Cooperman-Bogue Winners who work tirelessly to strengthen the lives of children … Summer Kirk with the Pace Center for Girls, Christina Mokhtar Hassan with Suncoast Center, Johnareus Young with Clearwater Parks & Recreation, and Mary Wooding with the Florida Department of Health’s Healthy Families Pinellas program.
  • Our H. Browning Spence Education Award Recipients whose stories of overcoming each earned standing ovations … Gloria Richardson, April Dempsey-Adams, and Joanna Steenberge.
  • And our numerous Nominees for this year’s coveted Dillinger-McCabe “Putting Children First” Leadership Award, named in honor of two long-standing Board Members Bob Dillinger and Bernie McCabe, which was presented to Ray Hensley of the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas. His decades of leadership and dedication to young children and their families is undeniable and unmatched!

WHAT: JWB 2023 Kids First Awards Luncheon
WHEN: Friday, April 28, 11:30 AM – 1 PM
WHERE: The Coliseum, 535 4th Avenue North, St. Petersburg, FL 33701
WHO: Nonprofit and Community Leaders, Elected Officials, Child Advocates

Our largest crowd ever with nearly 600 attendees, including current and former JWB Board members, nonprofit CEOs, and other dignitaries. Special guests of honor included Mrs. Denise McCabe and The Honorable Bob Dillinger, retired Pasco-Pinellas Public Defender.

Facebook photo album:
YouTube videos at @JWBPinellas: JWB 2023 Kids First Awards Luncheon | April 28, 2023; JWB 2023 KidsFirst Award Winners; JWB 2023 Dillinger-McCabe Putting Children First Leadership Award Intro

Additional photos and videos available upon request; interviews with winners can be arranged.


April Putzulu | 727.804.6404 |

Jennifer Dodd | 813.767.7895 |


For 75 years, the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County (JWB) has been investing in the futures of children to strengthen our community. Governed by an 11-member Board and driven by data, JWB ensures children are ready to learn, ready to succeed, and ready to thrive in homes, schools, and neighborhoods that are healthy and safe. In FY21, JWB and our partners served more than 58,000 children and families through 85 programs with 55 nonprofit agencies. Plus, collective efforts to address childhood hunger, grade-level reading, and preventable child deaths served thousands more. JWB was created by Pinellas County citizens who were the first in the nation to collectively make children a priority. At that time, few alternatives existed for children experiencing trauma or abuse other than adult jail. Three early champions – Attorney Leonard Cooperman, Judge Lincoln Bogue, and St. Petersburg Junior League Founder Mailande Holland Barton – drafted legislation, and on November 5, 1946, Pinellas County voters enacted the Juvenile Welfare Board Special Act into law. It was the first time in U.S. history that such an entity had been created to guard the rights and needs of children. Learn more at