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All God's Children Preschool in Lakewood Ranch offers a family atmosphere

Heather Amato's VPK class is learning math.
Heather Amato's VPK class is learning math.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer
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Every year that a new class prepares to leave All God’s Children Preschool for elementary school, the students release butterflies. 

“All the parents go, and they do a little ceremony on the playground,” said Brittni Murphy, who has had one child go through the program and another currently attending the school. ”It’s beautiful because the butterflies are going off, and they’re going off to kindergarten.” 

All God’s Children is a nonprofit program run through Living Lord Lutheran Church. Children ages 2-5 can attend, and the preschool is licensed to offer the state’s Voluntary PreKindergarten program. 

Murphy might be teary-eyed at this year’s ceremony because it will be her last. Her daughter Brixtyn is 7 years old, and her son Breyzen is 4. He’s one of the butterflies headed off to kindergarten. 

Murphy will keep flitting in and out until that happens. 

“I drive my golf cart there to pick up my son,” she said. “I told (the school's staff members) not to worry. They’re going to see me. I’ll be back to help.”

Murphy and another parent, Amanda Gregg, both said they like that the preschool is small because everyone gets to know each other. 

All God’s Children takes a maximum of 60 students. Individual classes stay in groups of six students while the VPK classes are larger.

The parents formed their own group a few years ago called All God’s Parents. AGP members volunteer in the classrooms and help fundraise. 

Brittni Murphy attends the carnival with her children Breyzen and Brixtyn.
Courtesy image

The preschool’s biggest fundraiser is the annual carnival, but there are smaller events throughout the year. An ice cream social welcomes the students back after summer break.

The preschool is not a daycare. It runs on the Manatee County school calendar. Camps are offered for six weeks over the summer for children ages 3-6. Each week has a different theme, and children don’t have to be students of the preschool to enroll.  

Children have to be potty trained to attend camp, but not to attend preschool. 

“For us, it’s not that big of a deal,” Director Erin Bonifate said. “But potty training is stressful for parents, so we don’t want to push the kids.”  

It’s something most preschools require, but All God’s Children is described as more of a family atmosphere. 

Gregg and her 5-year-old son Logan love the extra things the preschool and its staff offers. 

“When they were learning the letter “A,” they made apple pie and he got to taste it,” Gregg said. “He loved that.”

One of the teachers, Heather Amato, teaches VPK and also cares for two hedgehogs in her classroom. The hedgehogs’ names are Mr. Cheetah and Blossom. 

The lessons mix education with fun, hands-on activities. 

Before the butterflies are released, each student brings a flower to plant in the garden and is given a caterpillar for inside the classroom. The students must nurture both. In the meantime, they’re taught about life cycles and what plants and animals need to survive. 

Being the program is provided by a church, faith is also part of the students’ educational experience. However, the lessons are universal and open to all religions.

Mr. Cheetah is a hedgehod that lives at All God's Children Preschool.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

Bonifate was raised Catholic and is a member of Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church. 

“We don’t ask what your religion is,” she said. “(Chapel) is something the parents love because they’re not learning about any specific religion, they’re just learning how to be kind.”

Students visit the chapel on Wednesdays, but not for long sermons. Most of their time in the chapel is spent singing. 

Gregg said Logan’s personality has blossomed since he was enrolled last August. 

“If we’d go to the playground and kids would talk to him, he wouldn’t want to talk or make eye contact,” she said, “But just being there a couple weeks, and he was like a different kid.”

Tuition costs $275 a month for children who attend two days a week, $350 for three days and $550 for five days. 

While the preschool doesn’t have an official scholarship fund, money is set aside if a family is struggling to make tuition payments. 

“We don’t want to lose great families just because they’re going through a hard time,” Bonifate said. “We can help them out by either discounting their tuition, helping them with a payment plan or even just kind of washing away their tuition. It’s really easy to work with us.” 



Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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