Smart Start Rowan hands out awards

Published 12:04 am Saturday, April 15, 2017

Goodnight stars, goodnight air,

Goodnight noises everywhere.

— Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown


By Susan Shinn Turner

Smart Start Rowan

In September, Preston Mitchell became a dad for the first time. Since then, he’s read “Goodnight Moon” every day.

Mitchell read “Goodnight Moon” and excerpts from other children’s books Tuesday evening during Smart Start Rowan’s Shirley P. Ritchie Champion for Young Children event at Catawba College’s Crystal Lounge.

Mitchell and his wife, Rosemary, have been thrilled to receive books for their son Jack during the infant’s visits to the pediatrician. Smart Start Rowan administers the Reach Out & Read program, which serves some 80 percent of the county’s children through medical and pediatric practices.

It was an evening to celebrate the agency’s successes and to recognize this year’s Shirley P. Ritchie Champion for Young Children award winner. Recipient Karen Campbell has been involved with Smart Start Rowan since its beginning.

“There couldn’t be anybody more deserving,” said her son, Tim, who serves as Smart Start Rowan’s planning and evaluation coordinator. He doesn’t remember it, but he was at the first Smart Start Rowan board meeting with his mom.

Shirley Ritchie was the founder of Smart Start Rowan, and two of her children, Mark Ritchie and Celia Jarrett, attended the event.

“Mother had this vision long before there was even a Smart Start Rowan,” Jarrett said. “I’m very proud of the vision Mother had, and I’m proud of the visionaries of today who are carrying on that vision.”

“Shirley understood that early literacy played a vital role in a child’s success,” said Jane Welch, the agency’s community relations committee chairwoman. “Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders.”

Amy Brown, Smart Start Rowan’s executive director, unveiled the agency’s new logo, featuring bright primary colors with two parents holding up a child.

“This family is however you imagine a family to be,” Brown noted.

After a fun skit by Tim Campbell, Mitchell and Jennifer Hubbard that further explained the Reach Out & Read program, Dr. Jennifer Hudson, a pediatrician with Salisbury Pediatrics Associates, said the practice has been involved with the program since its beginning.

“We talk to parents and caregivers about the importance of reading aloud with children,” Hudson said. “It is an easy job for us. Reading is a special time for bonding with families.”

When Reach Out & Read started its pilot year with Smart Start in 2012, the program distributed 400 books at four medical practices. This year, because of Smart Start Rowan’s partnership with Rowan County United Way, it expects to distribute some 8,000 books at six medical practices.

Phillip Barton, a former board chairman for Smart Start Rowan, presented Campbell with the Champion for Young Children award.

“Children have always been at the forefront of her career,” Barton said.

Campbell has been a special-needs teacher and executive director for the Arc. She ran a home child care center for 10 years and has taught early childhood education at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. She served as Smart Start Rowan’s executive director from 2005 to 2006. She currently is a creative depth coach with Seeds for Change Creative SoulCraft, offering workshops, life coaching, spiritual direction, and other services.

“I see so many people in this room who are champions for children,” Campbell said. “It does take this whole community to make this work possible. To receive an honor with Shirley’s name on it means more to me than you can imagine.”

To close the evening, Mitchell asked the crowd to continue supporting Smart Start Rowan in any way possible. He then read “Goodnight Moon,” with many whispering the words along with him.

Many of Campbell’s family attended, including her son; her sister Kathi Hodge; her husband, Steve; and her parents, William and Barbara Perrell.

“We were all readers,” Campbell’s mom said. She read to her children in the mornings more than at night. “I was so tired with three children running around.”

Perrell said that he and his wife were unaware of Campbell’s honor but came to see their grandson in the skit.

“We would have come to see Timothy anyway,” he said.

At the end of the evening greeting family and friends, Campbell was still smiling.

“This is absolutely the greatest honor I’ve ever had,” she said. “There was something about Shirley that I held up. She was what I wanted to be when I grew up. Maybe I grew up a little bit tonight.”

The evening’s sponsors were:

• Diamond: Greg and Missie Alcorn, Gordon and Carolyn Hurley, Steve and Celia Jarrett, J.F. Hurley Foundation, Cliff and Amy Ritchie, First Bank, Novant Health, Salisbury Pediatric Associates and Salisbury Pediatric Dentistry.

• Gold: The Rev. Fred and Alice Archer, Jarrett and Amy Brown, Beverly Griffith, Glenn and Susan Herrington, and Jane Welch.

• Silver: Steve and Karen Campbell, All About Books, Cork and Barrel Store, Davis Group CPAs, R.H. Barringer Distributing, Virtual Sounds, and Walser Technology Group.

Smart Start Rowan is a Rowan County United Way member agency.