May 7, 2019
Hyatt Regency Phoenix

Join us for the 2019 Champions for Children & Families awards ceremony in Phoenix. We will honor the people in our community who work towards a better future for our children, who build a future where parents have the the tools, skills, and support to raise resilient, thriving children. Where childcare professionals are educated, compassionate, and prepared to teach the youngest members of our community. A future where children play and dream big. Where they are happy and healthy. Join us in building that future and celebrating Champions who are working today for that bright tomorrow!

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.

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2019 Champions for Children & Families Sponsors



Sponsor Champions 

Arizona ranks 46th 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.

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Past Winners


Martha K. Rothman Lifetime Achievement Award

Paula Cullison

Nominated by Linda Herold

Founder of the Arizona Women’s Partnership, a leader on numerous Valley boards and commissions, and a long-time advocate for women and families in the U.S. and around the world, Paula Cullison has been named the 2017 Martha K. Rothman Lifetime Achievement Award Winner by Child & Family Resources.

Nominated by another Valley trailblazer, Linda Herold, Cullison has built an impressive career in service to others through spearheading initiatives to help women and children including creating the first International Women’s Day event in Phoenix, being appointed to the Phoenix Women’s Commission and Phoenix Futures Forum by former Phoenix Mayor Terry Goddard, and raising awareness of women and family issues on a global scale through the United Nations, among dozens of other achievements.

Cullison has been an active member of numerous civic and community organizations, and has produced countless events to support women including Wine, Women & Jazz, which has benefited over 50 charities, and Getting Our Just Desserts, showcasing female pastry chefs with proceeds supporting various charities including a breast cancer support network.

"Paula Cullison has demonstrated what it means to live an engaged life, a lifetime dedicated to helping others. It has been a privilege to observe her projects for peace, social justice and equity, cross-cultural endeavors, empowering women and human rights."


Champion for Children & Families Award

Abraham Garcia

Nominated by Dr. Judy Krysik

Coordinating 300 volunteers with over a thousand volunteer hours, Abraham Garcia, father, husband, and local architect, has made a difference to more than 200 children in the West Valley.

Ten years ago Garcia’s oldest son was eager to begin club-level soccer, but instead of allowing the high cost of the sport to be a barrier, Garcia decided to become the coach, and spend more quality time with his son. He gathered a few children from the neighborhood and started practicing at community parks, but soon the word spread, and more children began showing up, which led to forming the Roadrunner Youth Soccer Club.

Apart from his love of the game, Garcia has been inspired by watching the kids develop self-confidence and a sense of belonging. Many come from single-parent, low-income homes, and the Club gives them opportunities they otherwise might not have. Ten years later, the Club now has ten teams, serving boys and girls 5-18 years old.

“For Abraham, it has been a journey of love; one that was not planned, but which he would do again in a heartbeat. It’s not just soccer, it’s family, and in Abraham’s Club, no one gets left behind.”

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Gabe Zimmerman Emerging Champion Award

Krystal Koons

Nominated by Kate Howell & Stephanie Hillig

Innovative, tenacious, and dedicated are just a few of the words to describe Krystal Koons, a woman who has made a lasting impact on community leaders, students, and families through her passionate work. As PTSA President in Prescott, AZ, Koons created programs and activities to help support students both academically and emotionally, including Character Counts. As a health education teacher, she created engaging, hands-on activities, and encouraged critical-thinking in her students, helping them to set achievable goals for themselves.

Recognizing a void in the community, and not one to let grass grow under her feet, Koons founded Teens’ Closet, a nonprofit that provides clothing to underserved teens, which was officially chartered as a ministry in 2012 by the American Lutheran Church. Koons realized that the needs of teens sometimes fall through the cracks, and Teens’ Closet was her inspiration, which includes a Priceless Prom program to offer prom attire to teens who would otherwise go without.

Soon, the success of Teens’ Closet led to her forming Moms’ Closet, to provide women who are struggling items they normally would sacrifice in order to afford the bare necessities. Both programs are managed by Koons and her team with frugality, organization, and care, and presented in a wonderful, boutique style. Clients are reminded that they are valuable, worthy, and cared about by their community.

“Krystal has made a difference in the lives of so many people in this community, many of whom don’t even know her name. She does this not because she wants recognition, but because she cares that much about the people she encounters every day.”

Brownies by Fairytale

Gabe Zimmerman Emerging Champion Award

Fairytale Brownies

Nominated by Gerry Burke

Fairytale Brownies Founders, David and Eileen, met on a kindergarten playground, and many years later, after founding successful business they returned to their roots by partnering with KaBOOM! For the past 15 years, as a supporter of KaBOOM!, with the help of their customers, employees, vendors, friends, and family, they help create endless runs, jumps, slides and swings for kids in the community. 

Together with their amazing fans, they have raised more than $300,000 and donated brownies and volunteer hours to create and promote physical fitness and fun for kids. Most recently, they built their latest playground this spring to celebrate their 25th year in business!

Fairytale Brownies has built two playgrounds for KaBOOM! Most recently at the Arizona Autism Charter School in Phoenix. Fairytale Brownies raised 100% of the funds needed to create the play space. 

"Every year, Fairytale Brownies hires extra employees to help with the busy season. One of the 2017 seasonal employees was a student attending Children’s First Academy in Tempe when Fairytale Brownies built a playground for them in 2011. The employee shared her memory of seeing the finished playground for the first time. She said it was a true inspirational gift for a child who didn’t have much, and always would remember Fairytale Brownies as a company that cared about community."

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Giving Heart Award

Jim & Elena Thornton

Over the past ten years, Jim & Elena Thornton have become well-known in the Valley for not only their brilliant photography, donating their time and talent to cover hundreds of charity events, but for their ongoing drive and passion to bring out the very best in others through collaborations, building lasting partnerships, and investing in programs and projects that make life better for everyone in our community.

Long-time advocates and supporters of the arts, Jim & Elena have served as ambassadors for and volunteered with countless arts organizations in the Valley including the Musical Instrument Museum, North Valley Symphony Orchestra, and many others. In 2007 they founded their own organization, the Arizona Consortium for the Arts, with the vision of building a multicultural arts center to provide a home for all creative and innovative activities, fostering artistic growth for people of all ages. Through the Consortium, Jim & Elena are dedicated to creating a platform for social bridging through artistic, cultural and educational events, with programs to help nurture and support underserved and economically challenged populations through the transforming power of the arts.

Elena holds both a B. A. and M.A. degrees in Education from the University at Albany, NY. She has more than 25 years in the education, business and the nonprofit sector. Jim has been in the computer technology field for over 30 years, and is currently an IT Senior Analyst for True Office Learning. Also a passionate and talented photographer, artist, musician/ singer, and community volunteer, Jim is one of the founding members of the Arizona Consortium for the Arts and has been instrumental in the organization’s continued growth.

“Jim & Elena have such incredibly giving hearts, and never miss an opportunity to lend a hand to help others. Their positivity and energy, along with their amazing talents, have made them known throughout the Valley, creating precious and lasting friendships.”