May 7, 2019
Hyatt Regency Phoenix

Join us for the 2019 Phoenix Champions for Children & Families Awards Luncheon on Tuesday, May 7th! This event recognizes members of our community who have had a positive impact on the lives of children and families throughout Arizona. It also helps raise critical funds that enables Child & Family Resources to continue providing much-needed programs for youth and families across Arizona.

Why Support Champions?

Arizona ranks 45th out of 50 states in overall child well-being. This grim reality must change! Children in Arizona need strong communities to allow them to reach their full potential. Your support will help make the difference by providing the programs and resources children need to have the best start in life—from early childhood development and quality childcare, to healthy parenting, kindergarten readiness and beyond.

Purchase Tickets

2019 Champion for Children & Families Honorees

Martha K. Rothman Lifetime Achievement Award

This award recognizes a person with a long history of diligently championing the issues of Arizona children and families.

3Pam Gaber_highrez.jpg


In 2000, Pam Gaber founded Gabriel’s Angels, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. She recognized the pressing and documented need in the community to enhance the lives of neglected and abused children through the application of pet therapy.

The organization was named after Pam’s Weimaraner, Gabriel, who began his career by visiting the children residing at the Crisis Nursery in Phoenix. During these visits Gabriel offered unconditional, non-judgmental love, teaching the children empathy, compassion and respect. By watching Gabriel help the children to trust again, Pam understood that something special was happening and felt compelled to reach more children. The triumph of Gabriel’s Angels is manifested by Pam’s leadership position as CEO and her daily involvement in the development, growth and vision of the organization. Presently there are 180 Pet Therapy Teams serving over 123 agencies and reaching 15,200 AZ children annually.

Her achievements include winning the 2008 Hon Kachina Volunteer Award, being recognized by Arizona Foothills Magazine as one of the Women Who Move The Valley, and being named a 2010 Women in Business by the Phoenix Business Journal.   In 2011 she was chosen the YWCA Woman of Excellence in the nonprofit sector, voted Most Influential Nonprofit Executive by AZ Foothills magazine and Gabriel’s Angels was selected as the Scottsdale Chamber’s Sterling Award Winner for Nonprofit.  In 2012 Gabriel’s Angels was chosen the Marketer of the Year Award for Nonprofits sponsored by the Phoenix Business Journal.  In 2013 Pam was chosen Best of the Valley by Arizona Foothills Magazine. In 2015 she was among the Amazing Awards, Amazing Women winners honored by National Bank of Arizona and the Phoenix Suns.  BMO Harris honored Pam in 2018 in the category of Women Who Serve.  In addition, Pam was a three time finalist for the Nonprofit Sector Athena Award.

Champions for Children & Families Award

The individuals and groups presented with this award have been creative and hands-on in their advocacy in the lives of Arizona children, and have been an inspiration in creating a better world for children and families.


CL pic March 2019.jpg

Phoenix Children’s Child Life Department knows it’s important for kids to be kids – even when they’re in a stressful place like the hospital. The Child Life Staff at Phoenix Children’s Hospital help children express and cope with their concerns through therapeutic play activities as children often communicate thoughts and feelings through play that they may not otherwise be able to express. As the medical staff is attending to the child’s physical needs, our Child Life Staff are attending to the child’s developmental, psychosocial, educational, and emotional needs – which can be critical in the treatment and healing process. In fact, studies show that children are less frightened and cope better when they know what to expect which is why Child Life Specialists are trained to use medical play and other techniques to help children understand what is happening to them. Phoenix Children’s Child Life Department is made up of 9 Playrooms which are also designated safe spaces so that children feel comfortable enough to fully engage in play without the fear of anything medical happening to them.  Our team of 32 Child Life Specialists, 16 Child Life Assistants, and 2 Music Therapists make this all possible!

Gabe Zimmerman Emerging Champion Awards

These awards are presented to individuals who have emerged as up and coming community champions for children and families. They are inspirational, compassionate, and innovative in their efforts to make our community a better place.


Karen shell

Nominated by Paula Cullison

Karen Shell’s lifelong pursuit to help kids and families in need began in the early 90’s.  After two decades of service, she founded Kids in Focus in 2012.  Familiar with the struggles these kids face, Karen is driven to empower these young lives.  Phoenix Home & Garden magazine profiled Karen in 2017 as one of the “10 Western Women We Admire” for her years of dedication helping those in need.

Kids in Focus is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering at-risk youth to see themselves and the world in a new light, equipping them with essential life skills to shift from surviving to thriving.  Kids who experience trauma such as poverty, homelessness, neglect and abuse disconnect from the world and from themselves. A camera in their hands, with the right guidance and encouragement, can switch the light in their eyes back on. Through the restorative power of photography and with the guidance of dedicated mentors, Kids in Focus opens the eyes of youth to their own potential as they build the resilience to overcome the challenges they face. 

The first Kids in Focus program was for a group of 18 homeless youth that Karen had already been mentoring for five years. At the conclusion of the program, Karen realized she had finally discovered the best way she could make a profound impact in these kids’ lives.  She feels her life’s journey has been preparing her for this purpose.  Since then, the organization has grown to offer additional programs year-round, annually serving over 300 children who spend 8,000 hours with their volunteer mentors. 

Alongside her years of service to the kids and families in our community, Karen has supported herself as a commercial photographer for advertising clients worldwide.  Her personal work has been exhibited internationally and her commercial work has won industry awards.  Karen’s three-decade photography career has continually reminded her of the power of seeing outside oneself; her passion for life is a testament to seeing beyond one’s circumstances. 


Jennifer Crews

Nominated by Paula Cullison

Jennifer Crews is the Founder and President of Desert Sounds Performing Arts. Desert Sounds  is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization comprised of dedicated  local community residents who understand the benefits of participating in the arts and have committed to promoting this goal, both personally and professionally.  Despite their importance arts programs face declining school budgets.  We are working to improve access to the arts, improve the lives of young people, and foster a love of music. We are succeeding and paving the way to a world of musical opportunity, personal enrichment, and happiness. We are investing in the future one instrument and one child at a time.

2019 Champions for Children & Families Sponsors