Awards toast the work of individuals and businesses in Solano County

POSTED: 04/30/15, 9:13 PM PDT

Children’s Nurturing Project and Solano Kids Insurance Program joined forces Thursday night to honor those striving to make a difference in children’s lives in Solano County.

The two children’s organizations organized the Champion for Children Awards as part of a benefit held at Hiddenbrooke Golf Club in Vallejo. Children’s Nurturing Project (CNP) works with at-risk children, helping their social, physical and emotional development through different programs that are meant to support kids of all ages. Solano Kids Insurance Program (SKIP) provides free or low-cost health insurance to uninsured children in the county as part of the Solano Coalition for Better Health. Joanie Erickson, Executive Director of Solano Coalition for Better Health, said the awards was meant to highlight the work done in the community.

“It’s basically an award to honor the unsung — and even sung — heroes in our community who really work on behalf of the children,” Erickson said. “What we’re here to do is make sure that the needs of children are really highlighted and those who work to benefit children and their welfare are honored. A lot of times they don’t get the recognition they deserve.”

The event marks the first time the two organizations have worked together, but Erickson and Debbi Davis, Executive Director of Children’s Nurturing Project, both said the pairing seemed natural, given the work their organizations do. 

Individuals and organizations were nominated in various categories by members of the community and were decided upon by an anonymous panel of judges for their work with children. Davis said the nominees were all great examples of working with children, but that the winners did stand out for various reasons.

“(Award winners are) being recognized for going above and beyond what their normal job or their normal role would be, to really support kids,” Davis said. “It’s more than just, ‘It’s my job to run a nonprofit children’s agency, it’s what I do,’ but what I do beyond that to help kids or support children’s issues.” 

Sophia Brace, Bailey Norman and Aliyah Rivera were all named as a Youth Champion, Sandra Vegas of Vallejo’s Foster Greatness won as Adult Champion, Vacaville Rotary Club won as Service Club Champion, Solano County Superintendent of Schools, Jay Speck, won as Elected Official Champion. Ford Lincoln Fairfield won as Business Champion and Touro University and Yippee Yogurt were given certificates as Inspirational Businesses.

Tom Thurmond, President of the Vacaville Rotary Club proudly spoke of his group’s work with youth, from providing up to $25,000 in college scholarships, supporting the local Boys & Girls Clubs and pairing kids with group members as part of a mentorship program. When asked why the rotary club chooses to work with kids, Thurmond said the reason was simple.

“The motto of rotary is ‘Service above self’ and we have a lot of younger members and many of us just really want to support kids,” Thurmond said. “We feel that if the kids get on the right track, the country’s going to be on the right track. It makes sense: Invest in your kids.”

Despite working in the school district for 39 years, Speck was humble about his work, and said he was surprised someone had nominated him for the award. When asked why he thought his work inspired someone to nominate him, Speck said, “I think that my role is more than just the schools and it’s really the community that raises the kids and make a difference in the lives of kids.”

Although the event was meant to raise money for the organizations, Erickson said that she hopes that the night’s program would bring awareness to the organizations and encourage others to volunteer to help children in the community.

“Every nominee and every winner would say there’s room for another volunteer, there’s room for another group, there’s room for another business who should step forward like they are,” Erickson said. “So we hope they inspire people to do more for children. I know it’s a cliche, but it is an investment for our future. It takes a village.”

To find out more about the two organizations, visit www.childrensnurturingproject.org and www.solanocoalition.org.