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Thank you, Donna!

One of my favorite traditions at Thanksgiving is when people share what they are thankful for that year. Although Thanksgiving is a few days away, I would like to dedicate this month’s issue of ACT’s community impACT e-newsletter to one of our most favorite partners – Alaska’s First Lady Donna Walker.

I remember the first time I met Donna nearly four years ago. She came to our offices alone – a very rare occurrence to meet her without staff in tow. What I remember the most is her smile. She has one of those smiles that is infectious. As I shared the history of the Children’s Trust and the relationship we have with the First Lady, her smile grew tenfold.

For 20 years, it has been a tradition for Alaska’s First Lady to be ACT’s honorary chair. Donna’s affinity for the mission of ACT provided the opportunity to serve as a champion for the safety and well-being of Alaska’s children.

Donna has had a lifelong commitment to children. As a mother and grandmother, she knows firsthand how important it is to ensure children grow up in safe, stable and nurturing environments. She even took a year away from her law career to be a caseworker for the Office of Children Services. To have the opportunity to partner with a statewide organization with a mission to prevent child abuse and neglect made that infectious smile grow.

For the past four years, Donna has been a beacon of hope for us all. Her passion and her voice to raise awareness and commitment to ensuring Alaska children and families thrive was present in everything she did.

When it comes to children, Donna never said no. She volunteered hundreds of hours with programs striving to support children and families. She has slept out in freezing temperatures to raise awareness and funding for homeless youth. She has written numerous op-eds asking Alaskans to join her in protecting and investing in Alaska’s most precious resource. She has taken time to sit with children and read stories. Each year, she joins Operation Santa ensuring children and families in rural Alaska have an amazing holiday. And the list goes on and on.

As a partner of ACT, Donna was always willing to lend a hand in helping us work towards achieving our mission of preventing child abuse and neglect. Annually, Donna hosted a gathering at the Governor’s house on behalf of ACT. She helped us raise resources that support our various programs. She kicked off our annual National Child Abuse Prevention Month rally. She visited ACT grant recipients across the state to learn how communities are working to protect children and what barriers they face day-to-day.

Although her time as Alaska’s First Lady is coming to a close, we know this is not the end of her work to help build safe, stable and nurturing environments for Alaska’s children. On behalf of all the children and families in Alaska, thank you to First Lady Donna Walker for being a champion for kids.

Trevor Storrs, President and CEO, Alaska Children’s Trust

Nominations Open for Volunteer of the Year Awards

First Lady Donna Walker announced earlier this month that nominations have opened for the First Lady’s Volunteer of the Year Awards. Started by First Lady Bella Hammond in 1975, the Awards recognize Alaska volunteers who have displayed an extraordinary personal commitment to volunteer service, and have made a major impact on their community or state.

 
“Over the years, we have recognized many exceptional individuals who have done amazing things for Alaskans,” said First Lady Walker. “I am so pleased to continue this tradition, and encourage Alaskans to nominate those in their communities whose selfless efforts make Alaska an even better place to live.”

 
Nominations will be accepted beginning February 6 through close of business on March 6, 2017. They may be submitted online at volunteerawards.alaska.gov, or hard copies are available for pick up at the Governor’s Offices in Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks, and Palmer. The First Lady’s Volunteer of the Year Executive Committee will review the nominations, and recipients will be announced in late May.

 
For more information, visit the FLVA Website.

Champion for Kids Honored at Fundraising Reception

A total of 125 guests attended the Alaska Children’s Trust (ACT) fundraising reception hosted by Alaska First Lady Donna Walker and Ms. Toni Mallott at the Governor’s House in Juneau on January 31.

annaOne of the highlights of the evening was the announcement of the 2017 Southeast Champion for Kids Award recipient: Sen. Anna MacKinnon, who was integral in ACT’s transition from a state organization to an independent nonprofit.

In 2008, ACT began this journey in partnership with our sister organization, Friends of Alaska Children’s Trust (FACT). The goal was to transform the organization into an independent nonprofit in order to better serve the state. However, for the first year, this idea faced challenges that prevented the transformation from occurring.

Anna recognized how the transition to an independent nonprofit could strengthen ACT’s mission and allow us to better serve Alaska’s children and families. When the new legislative session began in 2009, Anna introduced two bills that would support ACT’s goal. The bills languished through two legislative sessions.

But Anna never gave up. With her commitment to ACT’s mission and the children of Alaska, the bills passed in 2010. On July 9, 2010, Gov. Sean Parnell signed the bills into law, giving birth to the Alaska Children’s Trust we know today.

Without Anna’s support, perseverance and political savviness, our goal would never have been achieved. 

In addition to her important role in ACT’s history, Anna has an extensive history of being an advocate for our children. Prior to joining the Legislature, Anna was the executive director of Standing Together Against Rape (STAR). Under Anna’s leadership, STAR became active in engaging the community through education and general outreach to prevent child sexual abuse.

More recently, Anna helped the Legislature forge a deal to have Erin’s Law passed. In 2014, Rep. Geran Tarr introduced Alaska to Erin’s Law, which would require all public schools in Alaska to implement a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse program. The bill unfortunately did not pass in 2014.

The bill was reintroduced in 2015 and was expanded to included teen dating violence (Bree’s Law) and became known as the Safe Children’s Act. The bill faced some hurdles, which could have prevented it from passing again. However, during an extended session, Anna found common ground between the various parties to help ensure its passage – resulting in a stronger safety net for our children.

shirleyFor a year after the Safe Children’s Act was passed, Anna was a member of the committee that presented recommendations to the Department of Education and Early Development.

In addition to thanking the 2017 Southeast Champion for Kids, guests at the Juneau reception also heard from Shirley Mae Spring Staten, who shared about starting the Hiland Mountain Lullaby Project – a project supported by ACT. The Lullaby Project, which started in June 2015, pairs incarcerated women with Alaska musicians to create beautiful and personal lullabies for their children at home.hope-quilt

A piece titled “Hope Quilt” from the Unheard Voices|Unheard Wisdom exhibit was also on display at the January 31 reception. The art show focused on domestic violence and child abuse will be in Anchorage in April as part of ACT’s activities for Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month.

Alaska Children’s Trust thanks everyone who joined us at the Juneau event to show support for our mission.

Together we can prevent child abuse and neglect.

You’re Invited! Fundraising Reception in Juneau

Join First Lady Donna Walker and Ms. Toni Mallott on Tuesday, January 31 for a fundraising reception benefiting Alaska Children’s Trust! The event takes place from 5:30 – 7 p.m. at the Governor’s House at 716 Calhoun Avenue in Juneau. If you plan to attend, please RSVP by Friday, January 27 by contacting vlewis@alaskachildrenstrust.org or 907.248.7374.

Investing in our children safeguards their well-being today and assures the future success of our state. We know that children who grow up in safe and supportive homes and communities are much more likely to become capable and contributing adults. While most Alaskan children are growing up with these supports, unfortunately, many do not.

It is ACT’s mission to prevent child abuse and neglect. Last year, ACT invested nearly $500,000 toward the prevention of child abuse and neglect across the state. We hope you can attend the reception and help us continue our work – together we can prevent child abuse and neglect.

The suggested donation is $250 for individuals and $1,000 for corporations, with a generous challenge grant provided by ConocoPhillips Alaska.

A special thank you to our event co-hosts: Portia Babcock • Tom Brice & Kim Garrett • Ben Brown • Charles & Kristy Clement • Jenny Dawson • Laurie Herman • Scott Jepsen • Rep. Sam Kito • Sen. Anna MacKinnon • Anthony & Mandy Mallott • Eleanor Oydna • Justin Parrish • Wayne Stevens & Dale Cotton • Rep. Geran Tarr • Sen. Natasha Von Imhof • John & Dawn Walsh • Kristina Woolston • Rosita Worlact-2017-first-lady-invite-for-email-jpeg