Sheriff Knight named Community Advocate of Year by Florida Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office for 12th Judicial District

Award recognizes Sheriff’s Office efforts to help children removed from homes because of abuse or neglect

(From left) Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Victim Advocate Coordinator Autumn Roppolo, Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Child Advocate Manager/Team Leader Lynne Higgins, Sheriff Tom Knight, 12th Judicial Circuit GAL Director Toni Latortue, GAL Child Advocate Manager Keith Hammond, Community Affairs Director Kaitlyn Perez, and Colonel Kurt A. Hoffman. Contributed photo

Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight has been recognized by the Florida Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office as the 2019 Community Advocate of the Year for the 12th Judicial Circuit, the Sheriff’s Office has announced.

The Sheriff’s Office “has a longstanding partnership with the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program as personnel regularly work with GAL through the child welfare systems, from initial contact through the entirety of investigations including court proceedings,” a news release explains.

In 2017, the Sheriff’s Office launched its inaugural holiday toy drive to benefit GAL, which garnered more than 750 donations, including more than $1,000 in gift cards for children, from newborns to youth who are 18 years old, the release points out.

In 2018, the agency doubled its donation of the previous year by collecting more than 1,300 gifts, including more than $3,700 in gift cards, the release adds. Donations were then delivered to GAL offices, where volunteers sorted through toys and made selections for the more than 1,500 children from throughout Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties who have been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect, the release says.

In a letter to Knight, Florida Statewide Guardian ad Litem Executive Director Alan F. Abramowitz wrote, “Your leadership provides a beacon in your community for others to follow … helping to ensure that these children have the opportunity to live their best lives and reach their greatest potential.”

Knight reflected on the award as a humbling experience, the release notes. “This recognition means so much to our organization and to our personnel. Unfortunately we see children every day in situations some adults will never face in their lifetime,” Knight said. “What really inspires us is how resilient those children are and if we can give back and make their days even a little brighter, it’s a win for us. On behalf of the nearly 1,000 men and women at the Sheriff’s Office, we are truly humbled.”

To learn more about GAL, visit