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2020 Breakfast for Children’s Champions

Now accepting nominations for Children’s Champion Award recipients! 
online or download
January 20th Deadline

Smart Start of New Hanover County is excited to announce award-winning comedian, actor, and viral video dad DJ Pryor as the keynote speaker of the 19th Annual Breakfast for Children’s Champions. Pryor is best known for his Facebook post that went viral of him conversing with his 19-month old son Kingston.

Become a Breakfast Sponsor today! (link)
Reserve your seat! (email link)
Pledge or Donate! (link)

The Breakfast is Smart Start’s annual fundraising event that celebrates and recognizes members of our community who provide exceptional service to young children and/or their families in New Hanover County during children’s first 2,000 days of life, from birth to age 5.

Did you know…

  • In NHC, there are an estimated 11,590 children ages birth to five years old, making up 5% of the population, who have not yet entered kindergarten.
  • Approximately 8,922 children under six in the county live in families where their sole parent or both parents are working. The need for quality child care is critical to the economic viability of these families and businesses.
  • Most families in NHC cannot afford the full cost of child care.
  • In NHC, 30% of children ages birth to 5 live in poverty.
    Smart Start of New Hanover County envisions every child entering school with the health, family support and early education necessary to succeed.

Make a difference!  Join us to meet the Children’s Champion nominees and to support programming that strengthens families in our community!

Reserve your seat today! email Stephanie Harris or call 910.815.3731


2019 Breakfast for Children’s Champions raised over $58,000!!

Congratulations! Tami Hilton was named as the 2019 Children’s Champion and Wanda Marino earned the Starfish Public Advocacy Award. This year’s Breakfast was held at Hotel Ballast Wilmington on Tuesday, April 9th.  The amount raised in sponsorships, gifts and pledges supports Smart Start of New Hanover County’s 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.

2019 Children’s Champion

Tami Hilton, Care Management Program Director, Community Care of Lower Cape Fear

Tami Hilton’s nominator calls her a bridge builder and a barrier remover. In her work with Community Care of the Lower Cape Fear, Tami’s efforts focus on the welfare and preventative health care of children, especially vulnerable populations. She helps to create long term, sustainable care coordination for children who might not otherwise have knowledgeable advocates in their lives. From getting hypoallergenic pillow cases for asthma management to implementing work flows with local doctors that are aligned with the American Academy of Pediatrics, she is always looking to make a child’s life more comfortable removing the barriers that prevent overall optimal health. She believes in and has worked tirelessly to create a network of community providers that are trauma informed and resiliency focused.

2019 Starfish Public Advocacy Award

Wanda Marino, Assistant Director (retired), NHC Dept of Social Services

As her nominator is fond of saying, “All super heroes don’t wear capes.” Wanda Marino, is a special kind of super hero, a protector of children. Prior to her retirement as the Assistant Director at the Department of Social Services (DSS), Wanda’s super powers were a force to be reckoned with. She was the driving force in the development of New Hanover County’s Community Child Protection team. From that, was born a Child Fatality Protocol that established stronger investigative responses from law enforcement and the District Attorney’s office, but also from DSS itself. The protocol got the attention of a member of the NC Senate who is interested in making it mandatory across the state. Wanda was also part of the NHC School Justice Partnership, representing all the children under DSS’s protection and care. She helped build the Intensive Reunification Program to address neonatal abstinence syndrome, again achieving state-wide and national attention. She is a “relentless advocate for children.”

2019 Nominees

Rachel Greer, Gail Heider, Pepper Hill, Tami Hilton, Wanda Marino, Mark Murphy, Tammy Thomas (from left to right)