TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Extreme kicks off it’s final tour in Tampa Wednesday night.
Coinciding with opening night is the Tampa General Hospital Foundation’s 26th annual Night at the Circus.
Unfortunately, there will not be a 27th annual event. With the circus going away, so is a partnership that’s spanned more than two decades.
Over that period of time, the annual fundraiser has raised millions for the hospital.
Robin DeLaVergne is the foundation’s executive director.
“That money has gone to things for the children’s medical center,” said DeLaVergne. “Sometimes it’s big projects, like right now, we’re sitting in the neonatal intensive care unit. And I think three or four of the circuses helped us raise the 15 million dollars to build out this new unit.”
The hospital also donates thousands of tickets to the circus to area non-profit organizations that cater to children who couldn’t attend the circus or couldn’t afford it.
DeLaVergne said it’s disappointing that this experience for the kids will be going away.
“Thirteen hundred tickets for tonight’s performance went to those kids,”said DeLaVergne. “So it’s kind of sad that they won’t have that experience.”
Feld Entertainment announced earlier this month that the circus’s final performance would take place later this year.
When that announcement was made, wheels were already turning with the hospital’s foundation.
How can that void be filled when the clowns aren’t around?
“They’re committed to this partnership. They’re committed to this community,” said DeLaVergne. “So we’re going to find something.”