While the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy is recognized as the state’s preeminent watchdog and advocate for children, we know that improving conditions for children is a team effort. There are thousands of individuals and programs that work every day to ensure better outcomes for our youngest generation of Oklahomans. We want to give credit where credit is due, which is why we created the Anne Roberts People’s Choice Award.

Named after our longest-serving executive director, Anne Roberts was and continues to be a well-recognized figure at the Oklahoma state Capitol. She has spent a lifetime championing the causes of children, women’s issues and better health care opportunities for Oklahomans. Having served two decades in her role with OICA, Anne is without question regarded as someone who has improved Oklahoma through her advocacy and hard work, and we cannot think of a better person to help recognize other advocates who deserve their own moment in the spotlight. 

Equally important is the “People’s Choice” component of the award. We want to give Oklahomans a chance to highlight the organizations and individuals who are profoundly impacting the lives of children in their community, whether or not they are household names. To that end, OICA accepted nominations from the public for the past several weeks before our selection committee identified six people and six organizations as finalists. We are excited with the results and the opportunity to honor the men, women and organizations below.

Individual finalists include Jacqueline Aaron of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Western Oklahoma; Kevin Evans from Western Plains Youth and Family Services; Elizabeth Hocker of Tulsa Lawyers for Children; Tiffany Holmes from the Oklahoma State Department of Health; Judy Payne of Palomar; and Maria Rosales-Lambert of Oklahoma Interviewing Services.

The finalists for organizations include Family Builders; Fostering Sweet Dreams Foundation; Parent Promise; PIVOT; Rise (Raising Interest in Suicide Education); and the United Methodist Circle of Care.

Now comes the fun part: Oklahomans are invited to vote for their choice in each category, with the winners to be recognized at the 2019 OICA Heroes Ball on Friday, July 26. Voting is open at OICA.org (under the “awards” tab, which can also be navigated to directly at http://oica.org/awards/anne-roberts-peoples-choice-award/). Attendees of the Heroes Ball will have the chance to cast one final ballot for their choice prior to dinner, and the results will be tabulated at the event.

OICA will also present awards to board-selected winners from different categories. Those will go to the family of Judge Lisa Tipping Davis in her memory as the winner of the 2019 Kate Barnard Perseverance Award for lifetime achievement; the SONIC Commitment Award will go to to the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth as the organization of the year; and the Persistence Award will go to Karen Waddell of the Lynn Institute and Count Me In 4 Kids. Finally, the Gateway to Leadership Award, sponsored by Gateway First Bank, will go to two former lawmakers, the Honorable Laura Boyd and the Honorable Ron Peters, for the legislation they supported while in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and for their continued work to assist our state’s youngest residents.

Please cast your votes for the Anne Roberts People’s Choice Award and order your tickets to the Heroes Ball at OICA.org. Thank you for helping us recognize Oklahoma’s oftentimes unsung heroes for children.

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