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Tom Petty’s daughter donates $25,000 to Cade Museum

The Cade Museum is one local institution trying to stem the dropoff in local tourism revenue. (WUFT News file photo)
The Cade Museum is one local institution trying to stem the dropoff in local tourism revenue. (WUFT News file photo)

Florida Gator fans already have a reason to love Tom Petty; the lyrics of his 1989 hit “I Won’t Back Down” echo through Ben Hill Griffin Stadium during every home football game. Now fans have more reason to love the late Gainesville native and rock icon after several donations to the community have been made in his honor. 

A gift of $25,000 was made to the Cade Museum on Petty’s behalf by his daughter, Adria Petty, in October. 

Jennifer Dempsey, the marketing manager for the Cade Museum, said the donation will go toward Operation Full Steam, an outreach program serving students in Title I schools in Alachua County. 

“In addition to increasing STEAM exposure, the project engages participants' parents and families with each family receiving a free yearly membership to the Cade,” she said. “Ultimately, the project will cultivate greater interest in STEAM disciplines among students from culturally and socioeconomically diverse backgrounds, inspire the pursuit of further education, and contribute to a more inclusive and equitable innovation economy.”

STEAM is an acronym for the fields of science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics. Petty’s donation will help expand the program to two additional schools in Alachua County.  

Petty said in a press release that her father enjoyed his childhood in Gainesville, and she wants to help “preserve and protect his ‘Dreamville.’”

The Cade Museum has a mission of “transforming communities by inspiring and equipping future inventors, entrepreneurs, and visionaries,” according to its website. 

The Cade Museum is just one Gainesville organization singled out for recognition by the family this fall. Oct. 15 was the first annual “Tom Petty Day” at the University of Florida. 

Part of the event included the unveiling of the “Tom Petty Day x Florida Collection” merchandise line that will donate 100% of the proceeds to Gainesville charities.  

Different charities will be selected each year. This year’s recipients are Kids Count of Alachua County and Family Promise of Gainesville. 

Family Promise, founded in 1998, is a local nonprofit that serves children and their families who are experiencing homelessness. The organization works with different churches in the area to serve as shelters while supplying families with meals and helping the adults obtain jobs. 

Shelby Bobbett, the development and events manager for Family Promise, said she was grateful for the generosity of Petty’s family. 

“Our whole goal is to make sure that kids in our community have a roof over their head and have a bed every night, so for them [the Petty estate] to take their platform and allow us to talk about our mission and promote us was great,” she said. 

Bobbett said that the donation will go toward the renovation of Westminster House, which is located next to Westminster Presbyterian Church. The building will provide five affordable housing units for families in need.  

The other donation recipient, Kids Count, has a mission to help children in the community reach their full potential. It has been providing free after-school care, tutoring and enrichment activities for children in low-income areas since 2008, says Executive Director Keri Neal. 

“I was just honored and surprised and excited for Kids Count to be able to be a part of this,” she said. “It’s such a huge blessing for us as an organization, even for people to be able to hear more about Kids Count through this, is something that is big for us. I was just really thankful to have the opportunity.”  

Neal said adding more mental health counselors to the team and building a complete mental health program is a goal she’d like to achieve with the donation to Kids Count. 

“I think it’s amazing that the Petty family is continuing the tradition and the legacy of Tom Petty in that way of giving back to the community,” Neal said. “I think it just speaks a lot about who they are as a family and the long-term investment that they have in the community.”

Ivey is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.