Over 1,200 Attend 18th Annual Champions for Children Awards Ceremony

Over 1,200 Attend 18th Annual Champions for Children Awards Ceremony

The Children's Trust celebrates outstanding child advocates and programs

For two years in a row, child advocates throughout Miami-Dade County showed up for the annual Champions for Children Awards ceremony in record numbers, with more than 1,200 on hand on Thursday, April 11 at DoubleTree by Hilton Miami International Airport & Convention Center. The sold-out affair highlighted the exceptional achievements of individuals and programs committed to enhancing the lives of children and families across the county and featured emotional and inspiring honoree speeches and videos, as well as performances by talented youth.  

NBC’s Jackie Nespral served as the emcee of the 18th edition of what has become The Trust’s signature event, bringing together a diverse array of public officials, local leaders, dedicated individuals, and community members who share a common vision: nurturing and developing the youth of Miami-Dade County. Presented by TD Bank, the ceremony serves as a meeting space for all those interested in advancing the welfare of the county's children and families.

Trust President and CEO James Haj reflected on the evening's significance in bringing child advocates and community partners together. “Since The Trust inception we have nurtured so many impactful relationships with partners in this room that have made us what we are today. We are proud that those partnerships continue today, and even happier that we continue to build upon them,” Haj said. “The Trust relies on the incredible programs it funds to provide services to children and their families for everything from early childcare, to receiving healthcare in schools, to after-school and summer programming, to providing additional support and care coordination to families who need it most. Thank you to our providers for your incredible work.”

Haj went on to point out recent partnerships developed that have resulted in everything from a central resource where families can go to one place to find safe and affordable afterschool and summer camp programs, to soccer pitches and free and fun leagues to allow children across our community to play soccer ahead of the World Cup coming to Miami, to a community-wide drowning prevention program that is about to launch.  

During the event, Haj also presented outgoing Trust Board Chairman Kenneth Hoffman with a recognition for his 6 years of exemplary service leading and guiding The Trust’s 33-member board. Hoffman will continue to serve on the board.

The ceremony featured stirring performances by talented youth, including a captivating rendition of The Little Mermaid’s “Part of Your World” by Shantel Ruiz, one of the standout performers from the Young Talent Big Dreams competition, a countywide talent contest for children aged 8 to 18.  

The highlight of the evening was the recognition of exemplary individuals and programs with prestigious awards. Dr. William E. Pelham Jr., Founding Director of the FIU Center for Children and Families, received the esteemed David Lawrence Jr. Champion for Children Award posthumously, honoring his lifetime of dedication to children.

Other honorees included Bianca Sandoval from Kayleen’s Learning Center, recognized for Excellence in Direct Service to children and families, and Zoe Terry, a 12th-grade student from Miami Country Day School, who received the Excellence in Youth Leadership Award. Ruban Roberts, a licensed therapist renowned for his holistic approach to youth development, was also honored with the Excellence in Advocacy Award.

In addition to individual recognitions, three Trust-funded programs were lauded with the Program of the Year Award: The Children’s Trust Books for Free operated by Miami Dade College, The Liberty City Optimist Club of Florida and the University of Miami’s Jump Start Program.

The event's success was made possible through the generous support of sponsors, including Presenting sponsor TD Bank, Platinum sponsor PNC Bank, Gold Sponsors City National Bank, Florida University Center for Children and Families, Miami Herald/ El Nuevo Herald, Senator Rene Garcia, University of Miami UHealth, Wels System, WOW MKTG, and Silver Sponsors ACentral, Commissioner Roberto J. Gonzalez, Florida Memorial University, Greenberg Traurig, Health Foundation of South Florida, Key Biscayne Community Foundation, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, Office of Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, and United Way of Miami-Dade.

To watch videos of the honoree’s impact, click here. For pictures of the event, click here.