Corriher honored as Smart Start Rowan hosts Shirley P. Ritchie Champion for Young Children celebration

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 4, 2023

SALISBURY — Smart Start Rowan held its annual Shirley P. Ritchie Champion for Young Children Celebration at the Historic Salisbury Station on April 27. One of the agency’s four pillars of service, child health and wellness, was the theme.

Barbara Corriher was honored for her contributions as a volunteer and long-time community member passionate about children. Her friend Celia Jarrett  presented the award as her family and friends were in attendance.

Melissa Oleen, Rowan Public Library director,  described Corriher’s service to this community: “She is a hands-on board member. She is an active participant ready to give of her time and talents to help move the organization towards its goals. She is generous with her time, always willing to step up and fill a need, offer assistance, and connect people in the community.”

Ariel Ford was keynote speaker from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. She was director of the N.C. Division of Child Development and Early Education. Her speech was titled “Raising Rowan County.”

“With so much going on in this event season, we were thrilled to see so many of our sponsors, donors, volunteers and partners join us tonight,” said Amy Brown, Smart Start Rowan executive director. “This annual event is a special tradition we host, in honor of our founder and friend, Dr. Shirley P. Ritchie, and we were excited to be back in full in-person format this year.”

Jason Walser, the 2021 recipient of the Champion for Young Children award, was master of ceremonies for the evening as Board Chair Lorie Aldridge recognized 12 community partners in the areas of child health and wellness, with certificates of appreciation.

“We are so appreciative of the hard work of these health and wellness partner agencies,” she said, “and we are proud to do the work alongside them each day, to help ensure the future success of children and families, as well as the entire community.”

After the celebration, Corriher said, “I am extremely honored to have been presented the Shirley P. Ritchie Champion for Young Children award.  Amy Brown and her team at Smart Start strive each day to support every young child in Rowan County so they have the opportunity to be successful and thrive.  I recently have had the privilege of hearing the amazing sound of the heartbeats of my two future grandchildren and I was reminded what a miracle each child is.  Our community is blessed with these gifts, our children, and it is our community’s responsibility to support these children so they all become healthy, happy, flourishing young adults.  I would like to share my award with all those in Rowan County who hear that call and treat all children they encounter as if they were their own.”

Smart Start Rowan is located at 1329 Jake Alexander Boulevard South. For more information, call 704-630-9085 or visit