Getting their Story Right

The 2015 Champions for Children Event, featuring the Giraffe Awards.

Photo by Jamie Gagne.

“Here’s the thing about kids, they just want to be kids.” – Maria Padian

This year’s Champions for Children Celebration was all about raising our voices and sharing the stories of Maine kids. From the host and keynote speaker to the Giraffe Award presenters and winners, everyone had a story to share, reminding us that these kids are more than just numbers, they are children, with names, faces and futures.

The Pihcintu Multinational Choir. Photo by Jamie Gagne

Raising their voices and singing “We are the World,” the Pihcintu Multinational Youth Choir set the tone of the event. Despite coming from regions of conflicts and either witnessing or experience inexplicable violence, these young women demonstrated the power of song and the ability to overcome adversity. Their performance was one of many moments that brought the crowd of law and policymakers, businesses, advocates, and service providers to their feet.

Following the musical performance, acting host and former Giraffe Award winner Julia Sleeper spoke about how we all play different but important roles in making Maine a better place to be a kid.

“Anybody can be a giraffe,” said Julia Sleeper, acting host of the night and Executive Director of Tree Street Youth. “It is the businesses, it is the advocates. Everyone has different gifts but united we can do amazing things.”

In her keynote address, Maria Padian talked about her role as young adult fiction writer, drawing inspiration from kids and getting their stories right. Her most recent novel, Out of Nowhere, was inspired by real events and people in Lewiston. The novel explores the issues of human rights, racism, cultural identity, and community through the eyes of Maine kids. She impressed upon the crowd how despite all odds, children can become unlikely champions for themselves and others.

IMG_4598The event culminated with the 2015 Giraffe Awards, which continued the recurring theme of storytelling as winners spoke about moments and actions that inspired them.

Sue Mackey Andrews was recognized for her lifetime of work first at the state, then with her consulting group and most recently with the Maine Resilience Building Network (MRBN).

“There is no such thing as one advocate,” said Sue Mackey Andrews, the recipient of the 2015 Director’s Award. “We’re all advocates – all working to advance children in the state of Maine.”

Sue Mackey Andrews, Judy Feinstein, Jim Wellehan, Nakia Dana, John Woods & Full Plates, Full Potential, My Place Teen Center and Don Sanders were honored for “sticking out their necks” for Maine children, youth and families.

My Place Teen Center intern, Lexi, shares her story. Photo by Jamie Gagne.

Other highlights included, My Place Teen Center intern Lexi, who shared an emotional story about how MPTC changed the trajectory of her life and many others. Her speech was just one moment of many that brought the crowd to their feet and tears to their eyes.

Thank you to everyone who came out in support of the Maine Children’s Alliance and Maine kids. It was a wonderful celebration of child and family advocacy and served as an important reminder that the work we do matters.

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