2016 Leadership Luncheon: Celebrating a Decade of Growth

This week we celebrated Thrive’s 10-year anniversary at our 2016 Leadership Luncheon. We were joined by nearly 450 supporters who helped us raise more than $200,000 in support of Thrive’s early learning efforts across Washington state.

Tony Benton, Ross Hunter and Sam Whiting discussthe next decade for early learning in Washington state.

Tony Benton, Ross Hunter and Sam Whiting discuss
the next decade for early learning in Washington state.

I am so grateful we could be joined by some of Thrive’s founding directors including Bill Gates Sr., Tony Benton, Daniel Kranzler, Kevin Washington and Rep. Ruth Kagi.


Ten years. A milestone anniversary and a great opportunity to reflect on what we do, why it matters and share what’s next. The luncheon was an excellent platform to discuss these topics and bring together champions of early learning in Washington state. I’m so excited by the inspiring words and visions that were shared. Here are the highlights:

  • We asked parents who have children entering kindergarten in 2020 to share their hopes and dreams for their children’s futures. The response was moving beyond what we even expected. Watch the video below.
  • Governor Jay Inslee discussed the history of early learning in Washington state and spoke passionately about opportunities for growth.

    "The best investment in our children is the earliest investment in our children." – Governor Jay Inslee #2016LL

    Posted by Thrive Washington on Wednesday, April 6, 2016


  • Department of Early Learning director Ross Hunter and I discussed the state’s goal of having at least 90 percent of children ready for kindergarten by 2020 and shared our visions for what the next decade will bring for children and families across the state.
  • Keynote speaker Dr. Candace Kendle of the Read Aloud 15 Minutes National Campaign inspired all of us to think about the importance of investing in early education so we have a workforce prepared for the jobs of the future.
  • Founding board member Tony Benton moved us all with his personal story of becoming a father and his realization that his hopes and dreams for his daughter connect him to fathers everywhere.

I also shared a story about my beautifully complex child, Robin, who recently celebrated her 21st birthday.

We learned early on in Robin’s life that she had a sensory processing disorder. When it came time for her to go to kindergarten, we closely evaluated all of the schools around us and picked Stevens Elementary. Actually, we picked Karin Britt, because she’d already had a child like Robin in her kindergarten class.

robin kindergarten

Robin headed to kindergarten

Ms. Britt was a brilliant teacher. She was committed to individualizing her approach for students. For example, when the first fire alarm left Robin in a fetal position under her desk, Ms. Britt made Robin the principal’s fire drill assistant, clipboard and all.

She also diligently engaged parents in their children’s education. Ms. Britt was passionate that kindergarten is its own special journey.

Thanks to Ms. Britt, Robin loved school so much that she wants to make a career of it. She is now in her third year at Western Washington University studying early childhood education.

Thrive turns community commitment to high-quality early learning, like that of Ms. Britt, into action that changes the trajectory of children’s lives. We could not do that without the untiring devotion of our supporters, partners, funders and legislators to the advancement of early learning in Washington state.

With this support and partnership, Thrive will make the next 10 years of early learning even better than the last.