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2018 Smart Start Pledge Breakfast for Children’s Champions


Chip Mahan

Chip Mahan is the Founder, CEO and Chairman of the board of directors of Live Oak Bank, a company on the minds and lips of the Wilmington community (and beyond) these days as a model to watch.  Live Oak Bank offers SBA loans to businesses in niche industries, some of which other lenders don’t serve.  Between 2012 and 2016 the bank increased revenue by 500%, and it topped $1 Billion in valuation in November of 2017.

Live Oak Bank is known for being a great place to work – its modern and beautiful light-filled campus with a terrific cafeteria, gym and personal trainers, fitness trail around a small lake and even a doggie park welcomes casually dressed employees.  Most recently the bank invited Smart Start of New Hanover County to present several parenting seminars to its employees, many of whom are raising young families.  We are excited to host Mr. Mahan and to hear about the benefits Live Oak provides its employees, especially benefits that are family centered and recognize that employees are also parents.  This pays off in dedicated and happy employees, and ultimately in a stronger bottom line.

Save the Date

This year’s event will take place on April 3rd at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside from 7:30-9:00am. Attendees have an opportunity to make an individual gift to support the work of Smart Start of New Hanover County.

There are two ways to participate in our Breakfast for Children’s Champions

Be a Sponsor! There are many different levels of sponsorship, ranging from $250 to $10,000, with various benefits for companies and individuals who want to support the organization at this level and receive public recognition for this contribution. Sponsor Levels and Benefits & Pledge Form.

Attend this year’s Breakfast! For more information or to RSVP before March 26th for this year’s event, contact Mebane Boyd at 910-815-3731.

Meet Previous Children’s Champions

Congratulations! Lisa Brooks was named as the 2017 Children’s Champion and Diaper Bank Founders Leigh Robertson and Anna Lair receive Starfish Public Advocacy Award. This year’s Breakfast was held at Hilton Wilmington Riverside on Tuesday, March 28th. The event also raised over $70,000 in sponsorships, gifts and pledges for the work of Smart Start of New Hanover County for its work to increase the capacity of the adults who work with young children in their first 2000 days of life – from parents to pediatricians and social workers to early educators.


Nominees (from left to right) Terry & Ashley Mears, Donna Vaught, Nadine Nepper, Susan Henley, Anna Lair ,Sonja Green, Lisa Brooks, and Leigh Robertson.




Lisa Brooks, Children’s Champion

Ms. Brooks is a nationally certified child therapist and forensic interviewer at The Carousel Center in Wilmington. She facilitates forensic interviews for children reported to have experienced abuse or neglect.  Ms. Brooks helps these children do the hard work of healing so that they can get back to just being children.  She uses play to help build connections, trust, and rapport. “In the playroom, children are able to weave rich stories and do deeper work because they are not expected to “talk” or respond conversationally” she says “Bearing witness to their healing and bravery gives me chills and tears every day.”





Anna Lair and Leigh Robertson, Starfish Public Advocacy Award Winners

Anna and Leigh co-founded The Diaper Bank of NC Lower Cape Fear in February of 2014. With diapers costing upwards of $100 a month per child, many families are forced to choose between buying food and buying diapers.   “The majority of the families we serve have one or more parents working and yet are unable to afford the diapers they need to keep their child clean, dry, and healthy”, says Anna.  The Diaper Bank is an all-volunteer organization whose community partnerships have been the key to their success.  They have helped give out over 100,000 diapers in just two years.



Congratulations to the winners and to the nominees honored for their dedication in working to ensure that all children receive the services they need in their earliest years to be successful in school and in life.