Clifford the Dog and Dan Marino join celebration of $1 million donation to UF Lastinger Center for Learning’s New Worlds Reading Initiative

Press release from UF Lastinger Center for Learning

MIRAMAR, Fla. – A football legend, a giant red pup, and 82 elementary school students gathered on Thursday to celebrate reading. That’s right, Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino and Clifford the Big Red Dog were on hand to witness and celebrate as Universal Property and Casualty Insurance Company (UPCIC), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Universal Insurance Holdings, Inc., donated $1 million to the UF Lastinger Center for Learning’s New Worlds Reading Initiative.

Universal Property and Casualty Insurance Company decided that an investment in young readers was an investment in Florida’s future. “Giving back to our local community is one of our priorities at Universal, and we’re proud to partner with New Worlds Reading Initiative to help children grow academically and better prepare for their futures,” said Steve Donaghy, UPCIC CEO.

Universal Property and Casualty Insurance Company’s generous contribution supports a first-of-its-kind statewide program that encourages aspiring young readers by delivering free books and reading activities directly to the doorsteps of eligible K-5 grade students. Enrolled students receive a book each month during the school year, with an additional three bonus books for this year! Since the launch of New Worlds Reading in October 2021, the program has shipped more than 2.7 million books.

In Florida, the program is open to more than 800,000 eligible K-5 grade students in public and district-sponsored charter schools who are not yet reading on grade level.

In a ceremony at Coconut Palm Elementary School in Miramar, Fla., the UPCIC vice president of marketing, Stacey Tomko, and Mr. Marino presented UPCIC’s $1 million donation as students looked on. Kids had the chance to hear from Mr. Marino and ask questions about his life, football career, and favorite books. Notably oversized canine, Clifford, was in attendance for photos with families. Each student who attended will take home a free book, an at-home reading activity for their family, and information about signing up to receive monthly books and activities.

“We are truly grateful to Universal for their support of literacy and young readers across Florida.” said University of Florida Lastinger Center Associate Director, Dr. Shaunté Duggins, who leads the New Worlds Reading Initiative. “Children and their success are at the heart of what we do. Our partners make it possible.”

The University of Florida Lastinger Center administers the New Worlds Reading Initiative on behalf of Florida and has worked with companies like UPCIC all over the state to secure support for the literacy program. Companies who contribute to New Worlds Reading receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit on eligible donations.