The nomination period for the the 20th Annual Awards Gala has passed. Please feel free to submit the name of a local child advocate for nomination for the 21st Annual Awards Gala to be held in 2020.



The 19th Annual Judge Clifton M. Kelly Awards Gala

September 27th, 2018 - Grace Bible Church, Sebring Florida


On September 27th, 2018, the 19th Annual Judge Clifton M. Kelly Champion for Children Awards Gala honored five local heroes and incredible child advocates for their service and dedication to our community's children. Held within the beautiful Grace Bible Church in Sebring, original superhero characters filled the auditorium depicting all thirteen of the Champion for Children Foundation's community initiatives.*

Camille shaffer receiving the champion for children award

Camille shaffer receiving the champion for children award

Finalists Nicholas Brooks, Patricia Carter, Eddie Cuencas, Andrea Fennell, and Camille Shaffer were honored from stage. Each finalist received a small gift of appreciation and was presented with a crystal award for their ongoing commitment to bettering Highlands County through their positive impact on the lives of our children and youth.

Additional awards were also presented throughout the evening's program. Leesa Skipper accepted the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award in honor of her husband, John R. Skipper Jr.; and LtCol Luis R. Fresquez, USMC (ret) received the Hometown Hero Award.

Special musical performances by Jill Jernigan, Abi Smith, Eva Bates, Tristen Cathey, Ashdon Dennison, and Leona Fountain enhanced the program throughout the evening. Then Macie and Brooke Fann graced the stage to present the envelope containing the name of the 19th Annual Champion for Children Award recipient.

Dance instructor Camille Shaffer, who has been positively impacting children for 26 years, was announced as this year's "Champion for Children". Shaffer shared, her "greatest accomplishment on behalf of children is my ability to empower them to trust their own voice. To be strong, even if it means being alone."

Thank you to all sponsors, child advocates, and community leaders for your positive support and active involvement in this community celebration of local heroism. Congratulations and thank you to all five finalists, and this year's Champion for Children, Camille Shaffer.

*Champion for Children Foundation Executive Assistant and Graphic Designer, Kati Pippin, created all the original artwork and superhero characters for this year's Awards Gala.


Highlights film

Photo gallery


Gala photos


 Honoring Judge Kelly by celebrating child advocacy


Certain individuals cast a shadow larger than the shadows of average people. The Honorable Judge Clifton M. Kelly was one of those individuals. During his many years of service in the judicial system and later, as a tireless volunteer in projects for the public good, Judge Kelly crystallized the concepts that must prevail if a community is to become a safe, healthy, and productive place in which all children grow up to become contributing members of society. He understood that it is not enough simply to dream of a positive climate for inspiring the young. Adult citizens must act and cause others to act to “train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

   In addition to serving 25 years as head of the Tenth District Circuit Court, Judge Kelly designed a crime prevention curriculum and textbooks still being used to teach children that crime produces consequences and that bad decisions…at any age…may prevent an offender from ever achieving his or her dreams.

   But the Judge’s work was not limited to legal matters. He saw the need to create a caring community environment in which the well-being of children and families is fostered through strong human services agencies. He served on several boards, including a college, a public hospital, and a charitable trust. Whether in a meeting of a PTA, a Children’s Services Task Force, a truancy study group, a presidential search committee or serving as a mediator in a school expulsion hearing, Judge Kelly was consistent in expressing his core values: integrity, obedience, respect and personal responsibility.

   Through many avenues he paved the way for countless other citizens to follow his lead. Although he passed away in 2005, his influence remains clearly evident in the work of the Champion for Children Foundation, and the Children’s Services Council. The annual Champion for Children Awards program identifies outstanding persons who agree with the Judge that investing in children and in youth is well worth the effort involved.

Judge Clifton M. Kelly

Judge Clifton M. Kelly


Selection Process


Selection of the Highlands County “Champion for Children” begins with nominations submitted by the general public. Every year since 2000, the Champion for Children Foundation has issued a call seeking nominees. All nominees are reviewed carefully by a Screening Committee. This Committee identifies Finalists who are asked to prepare more detailed summaries of their advocacy for children and youth.

The Nomination deadline for the 19th Annual Judge Clifton M. Kelly Champion for Children Awards Gala has passed.

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Nomination Criteria

  1. Resides in Highlands County

  2. Demonstrates a deep, caring desire to help children

  3. Has taken action to address a problem facing children and youth

  4. Has provided at least five years of service directly effecting the well-being of children

The Special Selection Committee reviews the records of each Finalist and applies additional criteria. By definition, the Champion for Children is an individual who:

  • addresses a broad problem affecting a large number of children or youth,

  • demonstrates a long-term commitment to finding solutions to the problem, primarily at the local level,

  • gives personal volunteer service over and above the expectations of his/her career or profession, and

  • promotes continuation of his/her advocacy or service by enlisting others to join in solving the problem, thus producing ‘a ripple effect’ that enhances the well being of children and the community.


Award Recipients


2018 - Camille Shaffer


2017 - Christopher Doty

2016 - Linda Robinson

2015 - Dale McQuillen

2014 - Mike Lee

2013 - Pamela Karlson

2012 - Saundra Bass

2011 - Wally Randall

2010 - Marge Jernigan

2009 - Velma Lumpkin

2008 - Jacquelyn Rawlings

2007 - Pastor Mike and Pat Karl

2006 - Linda Crowder

2005 - Kathy Main

2004 - Larry Hooper

2003 - Monica Sauls and Dee McDonald

2002 - Sandra Lopes

2001 - Shirley Furr

2000 - Doris Gentry Hawthorne &
Ruth Handley


Hometown Heroes