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Each year, Smart Start of New Hanover County celebrates and recognizes members of our community who provide exceptional service, going above and beyond, for young children and/or their families in New Hanover County during children’s first 2000 days of life, from birth to age 5.

Children’s Champion Nominations are open until Monday, January 8, 2024 at noon!
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March 2023

At the Smart Start Breakfast for Children’s Champions, Heather Ratliff was named as the 2023 Children’s Champion.  LeeAnne Quattrucci received the Starfish Public Advocacy Award.

Other honorees are Bonnie Harris, Karen Harum, Becky Frederick, Kendra Kellermann, Max Nunez, and Tiffany Salter. All are individuals who have provided exceptional service to young children ages 0-5 and/or their families in New Hanover County.

Heather Ratliff has been the director of the Child Development Center, serving children with developmental delays for 22 years.  At the CDC children are provided an inclusive setting with access to licensed teachers and therapists.  No matter the issue, from children with cerebral palsy to severe autism to children with trauma histories, Heather makes sure every child receives the services they need. She says watching a child grow in confidence is all the motivation she needs for her job.  Under her tenure, she helped over 500 children to move into kindergarten with fewer special needs services, than when they started the CDC preschool program.

LeeAnne Quattrucci is described as relentless in her goal to obtain safety and permanence for children in our community.  One of her two nominators says there is no child left in limbo when LeeAnne is assigned to them. Her second nominator says her specialty is securing children loving & appropriate homes in their first 2,000 days. LeeAnne has been with Guardian Ad Litem for almost 13 years and has finalized more than 800 adoptions.  She also works outside of GAL, mentoring elementary school students and teaching at UNCW.  LeeAnne puts her beliefs into practice – she and her husband have adopted to daughters who are now young women.

Each year Smart Start of New Hanover County hosts the annual Breakfast for Children’s Champions as an opportunity to recognize New Hanover County citizens, nominated by their peers, for their outstanding efforts on behalf of young children.

While the Breakfast serves as a wonderful opportunity for us to highlight the great work that professionals are doing on behalf of children and families in our area, it is also serves as our biggest fundraising activity and the main generator of private dollars.

Questions? email Jennifer Gallo or call 910.815.3731 x.1028

Smart Start of New Hanover County envisions every child entering school with the health, family support and early education necessary to succeed.