Bright Futures USA, a national non-profit dedicated to inspiring community partnerships that open a way for all children to learn, lead and serve, recognized several individuals, groups and communities during its Evening of Champions at the Third Annual Community Engagement Conference March 2-4 at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin.

JOPLIN, Mo.—Bright Futures USA, a national non-profit dedicated to inspiring community partnerships that open a way for all children to learn, lead and serve, recognized several individuals, groups and communities during its Evening of Champions at the Third Annual Community Engagement Conference March 2-4 at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin.

Affiliate of the Year
This award recognizes a Bright Futures affiliate community who serves as a model for other communities. It is Bright Futures USA’s most prestigious award and exemplifies what happens when leadership, communication and collaborative partnerships create the synergy necessary to bring about cultural change to support our next generation’s development.
Bright Futures Carl Junction was recognized for setting the bar of excellence since its creation. The group has forged strong links between existing nonprofit organizations while advancing and supporting new projects in the community. A freshman language arts class studied food insecurity, then researched local food programs to which they could offer support. This resulted in the creation of the “Souper Harvest” to benefit Carl Junction’s Bright Futures Food4Families program. The National Honor Society created one-of-a-kind bowls, with the Graphic Arts class designing and printing t-shirts, which ultimately raised $1,500 while increasing awareness of food insecurity in Carl Junction.

Community Champion
At the core of Bright Futures is the belief that every child needs a champion. To accomplish that, every community needs a champion to effectively carry out this mission. This award recognizes a community member who has demonstrated strong, consistent, and effective leadership, bringing the community together around the Bright Futures framework. Two individuals were recognized this year.
Peggy Fuller, of Joplin , has made it her mission to spread the word far and wide about the Bright Futures mission, speaking to Rotary Groups, businesses and church leaders. She served as chairman of Bright Futures Joplin and during her tenure created “Reading Matters,” to reinforce a critical skill necessary for a child’s long-term success.
Dr. David Sovine, from Frederick County, Va., serves as superintendent to a district with more than 13,000 students and 2,000 employees. He has a reputation of leading by example and is well known for his accomplishments, such as raising more than $1 million while he was chairman of the local United Way campaign. Perhaps his most important role is serving as mentor to a 3rd grader in his district, setting an example for others of how the Bright Futures program works.

Model The Way
Model The Way is an award presented at the discretion of the Bright Futures USA board of directors. It recognizes outstanding achievement by an individual, group or community in putting the Bright Futures mission into action, creating models that can be easily adapted by others.
Dr. Phillip Cook, superintendent of Carl Junction Schools , was recognized for his district’s achievements in creating an adaptable Bright Futures model, and for being the first community partner outside Joplin, where Bright Futures had its genesis. Under his leadership, Carl Junction Schools have galvanized resources from the private and public sectors, faith-based organizations and individuals, to meet the immediate and longer-term needs of children in the district.

Partner of the Year
Every community has human service, business, and faith-based partners who have committed their respective resources of time, talent, and treasure to support the Bright Futures effort at the local level. The Partner of the Year award recognizes the ongoing and sustained commitment of an organization in support of education and youth through the Bright Futures framework.
The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, led by Sheriff John Cottle , was recognized for cleaning and renovating office space for Bright Futures Lincoln County, as well as washing and donating winter coats to needy children and more than 200 dresses and suits for “Project Prom.” In addition the office raised more than $1,000 to dry clean those dresses and suits for future use.

Spotlight Award
The Spotlight Award recognizes a community that has effectively crafted high-quality communication and marketing strategies, using the Bright Futures brand, to shine a spotlight on the organization’s mission.
Bright Futures Harrisonville received the Spotlight Award for its #My42 initiative which rallied the entire community around the slogan: “4 Our Children, 2 Ensure Bright Futures.” The #My42 campaign unified and inspired teachers, businesses and parents to start the conversation about what kids in the community need to grow and thrive. Social media, posters, t-shirts and a website helped carry the message more broadly.

Evan Yoder Spirit of Service Award
Evan Yoder was an amazing young man who served as a Bright Futures research coordinator. Unfortunately, his life ended too soon, after a brave battle with cancer. This award was created to honor Evan’s belief that service can enrich the lives of others and truly make a difference.
Janis “Jan” Reding, from Grain Valley , was recognized for many years of service to her community and its children. She rallied those around her to achieve much, organizing a used book sale, helping start a local education foundation, and creating an event at a local school shoe store for low-income children to pick out shoes purchased with donations. She has held fundraisers at senior citizen meetings, hosted trivia nights and used book sales, in addition to her own contributions, to fund a variety of programs designed to help children-in-need.

Cornerstone Communities
Seven Bright Futures chapters, who have been with the organization from its inception, and have gone on to fully embrace the program’s model, were honored. Each for providing examples for other communities seeking to implement the Bright Futures program. Cornerstone Communities recognized were Aurora, Carl Junction, Carthage, Cassville, Frederick County, Va., Harrisonville, and Neosho.

About Bright Futures USA
The Bright Futures USA mission is to inspire community partnerships that open a way for all children to learn, lead and serve to their full potential, now and in the future. To bring that vision to reality, the organization develops and supports independent affiliate communities, bringing together businesses, human service agencies, faith-based organizations, parent groups, and individuals in an effort to create lasting connections to help all kids succeed. Learn more at www.brightfuturesusa.org.