For 20 years, the Partnership has served as the convener and facilitator of Durham’s early childhood system, and on Thursday, April 23rd, nearly 150 people gathered at the Museum of Life and Science to celebrate this milestone at our 20th Anniversary Celebration: Kids Rock!
The event, with lead sponsorship from PNC, Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC, and the Duke Office of Durham and Regional Affairs, honored the comprehensive system that has evolved from the early days of Smart Start, as we celebrated our past achievements and looked forward to our future. Community partners, former and current Board leaders, funded partners, collaborating organizations, local leaders, sponsors, volunteers, and staff all gathered for great food, entertainment and a shared sense of community and vision for Durham’s children.
During the program, guests heard inspiring words from Laura Benson, Partnership Executive Director, and Linzie Atkins, Board Chair, as well as Lori Jones-Gibbs, representing our lead event sponsor, PNC Grow Up Great. LaDonna Allison, a Board Member and Durham Early Head Start parent, shared a moving testimonial about how Partnership-funded programs have had a life-changing impact for her and her daughter, Zarrianna.
Governor James B. Hunt, Jr., who launched the Smart Start Initiative 20 years ago, also addressed the crowd by video. Among many kind words, Governor Hunt expressed his congratulations and appreciation for everyone who has worked so hard on behalf of young children in Durham, saying that we are a model for innovative programs that respond to our community’s needs. He also offered a challenge to our new, emerging leaders to continue to lead the cause and invest in our children, our county, our state and our economy.
Last but certainly not least, world-renowned, Grammy®-nominated Durham resident Nnenna Freelon performed. Her song, “One Child,” felt like it was written for this very occasion and was a wonderful way to end the program.
Throughout the evening, there were also performances from Kidznotes and a jazz combo, as well as a silent auction of children’s rocking chairs. The beautifully painted chairs offered a variety of great prizes, including: college basketball tickets, a Taste of Durham food tour, club seats at a Durham Bulls Game, a relaxing stay at the Washington Duke Inn, and many more!
It was a wonderful evening, and we’re so thankful for everyone who celebrated with us, even if you could only be there in spirit! Thank you for investing in Durham’s future and sharing in the vision, passion and commitment to help lead Durham’s Partnership for Children through the next 20 years.