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.
One 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.
For 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.
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.