Galardonados de Champions for Children y el Presidente/CEO del Children's Trust James R. Haj

Longtime Advocate for Children and Families Honored at The Children’s Trust Champions for Children Event

12th annual awards ceremony celebrated local “stars” of child advocacy with live performances, art auction and more

Miami, FL – A high-profile crowd gathered for The Children’s Trust’s 12th Annual Champions for Children event at the Jungle Island Treetop Ballroom on Friday, August 25, where Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson accepted the prestigious David Lawrence Jr. Champion for Children Award, for lifetime achievement in advocacy on behalf of children and families.

Wilson was among six individuals and organizations honored at the ceremony, commonly called the “Oscars of Child Advocacy.” She and her peers demonstrate the critical strides being made in bettering the lives of Miami-Dade children and families. While they celebrated their achievements at the August 25 event, they also inspired up-and-coming nonprofits and local leaders in attendance to follow in their footsteps.

“Over the years, we’ve toasted Miami-Dade’s network of child and family advocates at the annual Champions for Children event,” said James R. Haj, president and CEO of The Children’s Trust. “We have watched this community of selfless, motivated individuals grow as they partner with local organizations and lobby for new, impactful changes to legislation. It’s an honor to recognize their efforts and encourage growth in our field.”

The event also recognized the 15th anniversary of The Trust, which was established in 2002, and the legislators who made its creation possible – former State Senator Ron Silver and former State Representative Gus Barreiro, and former Miami-Dade County Commissioners Katy Sorenson and Jimmy Morales. They, along with David Lawrence Jr., The Trust’s founding board chair and an instrumental force behind establishing the organization, received a thunderous standing ovation.

In addition to networking with many of Miami-Dade’s most dedicated child and family advocates, the nearly 800 attendees enjoyed performances by participants of the Young Talent Big Dreams youth performing arts competition, and took part in an auction of a diptych created especially for the event by multitalented Daniel “Krave” Fila, whose vibrant large-scale murals inspired the day’s urban theme.

The event was supported by Gold Sponsors City National Bank and TD Bank, as well as Silver Sponsors Citrus Health Network, Florida Blue, Florida International University, Miami Children’s Hospital, United Way of Miami-Dade and WOW Factor. Additional sponsors included the Miami Marlins, University of Miami Health System, AlphaStaff, Aventura Mall, AXA Advisors, the M Network, the de Moya Group and WELS Systems Foundation. Proceeds of the auction of Daniel “Krave” Fila’s artwork benefited The Children’s Trust.

2017 award recipients:

  • Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson, David Lawrence Jr. Champion for Children Award: Congresswoman Wilson is an educator and principal at heart, as evidenced by her continued advocacy for at-risk children, including her global outreach in the Bring Back Our Girls campaign to return the abducted Chibok schoolgirls to their families. Wilson, who serves on the House Committee on Education and the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, is perhaps best known in Miami-Dade for founding the nationally recognized 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, which inspired President Barack Obama to launch the My Brother’s Keeper Success Mentors Initiative.
  • Florida State Senator René García, Excellence in Public Policy Award: Receiving this honor for the second consecutive year is a testament to Senator Garcia’s commitment to children and families. His latest achievements include a human trafficking bill that revised reporting requirements of the Florida Department of Children and Families, reducing the risk of victimized children being returned to unsafe circumstances. Sen. García also introduced in this past legislative session an ultimately successful child welfare bill to support children in foster care, as well as make the child welfare system more accountable.
  • Andrea Fletcher, Children of Inmates, Excellence in Direct Service Award: Fletcher’s work facilitating reunions between children and their incarcerated parents at Florida Department of Corrections facilities and the Miami-Dade County Jail has seen countless families reconnect and build stronger bonds. For a decade, Ms. Fletcher ran a weekly peer support group for children and caregivers with an incarcerated parent, while working with new and existing clients in the program, coordinating child-centered quarterly bonding visits and mentoring countless social work interns.
  • A.B.F. Learning Center, Program of the Year: A.B.F. Learning Center provides culturally, linguistically and developmentally appropriate programs in a safe, loving environment that promotes active learning. This accredited program serves a unique population in Miami-Dade County, including families at the Chapman Shelter and at the Homestead Air Reserve Base, serving as what A.B.F. describes as “a bridge in the community.”
  • AileyCamp Miami, Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Program of the Year: AileyCamp Miami, a full-scholarship summer camp for children ages 11-14, offers more than just dance classes – it empowers youth through creative and artistic courses to help students strengthen their self-esteem. In addition to learning a variety of dances, students learn about conflict resolution, health, nutrition and drug prevention awareness. AileyCamp Miami is a recipient of a 2016 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award (NAHYP), presented by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.
  • Unleashing Children’s Potential, United Community Options of Miami, Program of the Year: Unleashing Children’s Potential has been serving children with physical, intellectual and neurological challenges, as well as developmental delays and disabilities, for 13 years, with a focus on retaining academic strides over the summer months; providing activities that enhance cognitive, gross and fine-motor skills; and increasing communication, social/emotional and adaptive skills. Celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, United Community Options, formerly known as United Cerebral Palsy of Miami, is one of the largest health care organizations in South Florida.

To learn more about The Children's Trust, visit For event photos or additional information, please contact Meieli Sawyer at The Weinbach Group at 305.668.0070.

The Children’s Trust is a dedicated source of revenue established by voter referendum to improve the lives of children and families in Miami-Dade County by making strategic investments in their future.

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Media Contact: 
Natalia Zea
Chief Public Policy & Community Engagement Officer, The Children’s Trust