2011 Champions for Children Winners Announced

Maine Children’s Alliance to Present Giraffe Awards at Annual Event

The Maine Children’s Alliance (MCA) celebrates those who “stick their necks out for kids” by presenting Giraffe Awards at its 17th annual Champions for Children event on November 10, 2011, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Freeport. The statewide children’s advocacy organization’s annual meeting will also be held during the event, which runs from 5:30-7:30 p.m. A new feature of this year’s Champions for Children is greater youth involvement in the event, including youth emcee, musical entertainment, and technical support.

Maine Senate President Kevin L. Raye will serve as keynote speaker for the awards ceremony. Senator Raye is serving his fourth term representing Washington County and eastern areas of Hancock and Penobscot Counties.

MCA President/CEO Dean Crocker will present the President’s Award to Christopher “Kit” St. John, who has just retired from his position as executive director of Maine Center for Economic Policy.

“We are grateful to Kit for being such an effective champion for Maine’s families over his long career,” says Crocker. “He is highly respected in Maine and on a national level for his expertise on a range of economic issues.”

Two winners will be honored with Giraffe Awards for their individual accomplishments. One is Marjorie Withers, director and co-founder of the Community Caring Collaborative, a network of tribal, state and community agencies and members creating a holistic system of care for infants, young children and their families who are at risk.

The other award winner in the “individual” category is Estelle Rubinstein, Executive Director for Androscoggin Head Start and Child Care. She began at Head Start as a volunteer in 1969 and has since has represented her agency and the child care cause by advocating for low-income children and families throughout the community.

This year’s winner in the “advocate” category is William Bradford III. Bradford was in the foster care system from age 4 to 18, and now travels as a motivational speaker and works on behalf of kids in the foster care system. He also started Bids4Care, a website dedicated to raising funds for foster youth in transition.

The “organization” Giraffe Award goes to Ruth Libby, CEO & Founder of Ruth’s Reusable Resources (3R’s). Ruth started 3R’s in 1994 with the concept of taking unwanted items from businesses and individuals and making them available for teachers to use in their classrooms. In 18 years, Ruth’s Reusable Resources has given away more than $37 million worth of supplies to Maine schools and non-profits.

Two winners will be honored in the “youth” category. One is Joshua Calcia, an active member of the York County Foster Care Collaborative and of the Youth Leadership Advisory Team. Through both organizations, Calcia helps educate the community about the challenges of youth in foster care, and he mentors young people in the foster care system.

The other youth winner is Cheyenna Spelman, whose has risen above a difficult past—including years of abuse—to become a youth leader in speaking to state decision makers about her experiences and advocating on behalf of young people. She has been a member of Youth MOVE in Lewiston for five years.

The Champions for Children event will also include recognition of Maine Children’s Alliance outgoing board leaders Jack Rosser and Jane Gilbert. Rosser is retiring from his longtime position as Chair of the Board with MCA. Rosser currently serves in multiple capacities with The Spurwink Institute; his career has also included serving as a teacher, coach and administrator in Pennsylvania, and an administrator and education leader in New Jersey, as well as Commissioner of Maine Department of Mental Health and Corrections.

Jane Gilbert is retiring as Vice President of the MCA Board. In addition to a long career serving Maine state government, she has been active in labor mediation, civil rights, economic equity and welfare reform. She retired in 2008 as Deputy Commissioner of the Maine Department of Labor, where she oversaw personnel issues and public policy for the agency.

Also participating in this year’s Champions for Children ceremony is Representative Anne Haskell of Portland. Rep. Haskell is serving her sixth term in the Maine State Legislature, and is the House Democratic Lead on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. She has advocated for children throughout her career.

Champions for Children also features a silent auction to raise funds in support of MCA’s mission to improve the lives of children, youth and families in Maine.

There’s still time to make a reservation to attend the Champions for Children event. Call (207) 623-1868, ext. 201, email Bonnie Colfer or visit the online reservations page .

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