On October 10, nearly 500 people came together at the Embassy Suites in La Vista to celebrate another year of positive change for children – and Nebraska Children and Families Foundation’s 20th anniversary! It was an honor to commemorate such a big milestone with so many of the people who make the work possible on a daily basis.
The day started with a small private reception where longtime supporter Dr. Helen Raikes and her late husband, Senator Ron Raikes, were honored with this year’s Grace Abbott Award. Honoring Helen and Ron would be a no-brainer in any year, but it was especially meaningful to honor them this year, because 2017 marks 10 years since the passage of the legislation and constitutional amendment that established the Sixpence Early Learning Fund – something that would not have been possible without the tireless efforts Helen and Ron brought to the table.
After the reception, the main event began with remarks from emcee Jeremy Maskel, a founding member of the Friends of Nebraska Children group, as well as remarks from honorary co-chairs Diane and Senator Ben Nelson. Jeremy introduced a new video highlighting Nebraska Children’s work:
Nebraska Children’s President and CEO Mary Jo Pankoke also shared a few words about the Foundation’s 20th anniversary:
“The success of the past 20 years can be attributed to many things: having the right people willing to do the hard work; state leaders and philanthropists who make children a priority and understand the power of partnership; communities of people who are willing to set aside turf issues and focus on the outcomes they want for children and families; and focusing on research and data to help create and implement strategies that will work. Looking toward the future, I hope that we can continue to be responsive to the changing needs of children, families, and communities and to keep lifting up community voices.”
After the opening remarks, Keynote Speaker Wes Moore took the stage to share his story with a captive audience. He spoke of a childhood full of loss and struggle, and told of all the sacrifices his loved ones made to give him opportunities to overcome his circumstances and reach his full potential. He shared how easily his life could’ve ended up completely differently, had his community not surrounded him with support, and he charged the audience with working to unearth every drop of potential in our communities’ children. “The best way to take care of our future is to take care of everyone’s future,” he said. “It’s about surrounding kids with the support they need to move forward and know that their dreams will be supported.”
On a day where we lifted up those who are already making change happen for families and children in our communities, there was no better reminder of how important it is to keep fighting and working together to improve outcomes for all of our citizens. After all, as Wes said, “The future of all our communities will be defined by our ability to take care of our children and families.”
Thank you to all who attended this special event and helped us celebrate the work that’s been done this year – and in Nebraska Children’s 20 years. We look forward to working together for decades to come.