Smart Start of New Hanover County honors 2023 Children’s Champions

Smart Start of New Hanover County honored several people at the organization’s Breakfast of Champions.
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 12:03 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Helping children in their first two thousand days can set the course for their development and life’s interactions.

Smart Start of New Hanover County honored several people at the organization’s Breakfast of Champions for their work in “going above and beyond in improving children’s lives.”

The Smart Start of New Hanover County Children’s Champion award went to Heather Ratliff, the executive director of the Child Development Center. Ratliff has served children with developmental delays for more than twenty years. The person who nominated her for the award noted that “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.”

“It’s crucial that everyone understands the importance of early education and interventions,” Ratliff said after receiving her award. “You’ve got to get those first two thousand days in to make the biggest impact.”

Attorney LeeAnne Quattrucci, who has worked as an attorney in the Guardian Ad Litem program for 13 years, was named the winner of the 2023 Starfish Award for Public Advocacy. Described as relentless in her goal to obtain safety and permanence for children in the community, one of Quattrucci’s two nominators said “her specialty is securing loving and appropriate homes for children in the first two thousand days.”

Other nominees for the awards this year included Becky Frederick, Bonnie Harris, Dr. Karen Harum, Kendra Kellerman, Max Nunez and Tiffany Salter.

“This is a group of people who, every single day, go out of their way and above and beyond to make sure children’s lives are better,” said Dr. Jane Morrow, executive director of Smart Start of New Hanover County. “Whether they are providing care for children with special needs, making sure that children who may have been abused are taken care of physically and mentally, even reading to children. Every single day there are people who make up a village that helps care for all of our children.”

Click here to learn more about the nominees and Smart Start of New Hanover County.