SEBRING - Highlands County has many child advocates, but one, Pamela Karlson, was selected Thursday for special recognition as the winner of the 14th annual Judge Clifton M. Kelly Champion for Children Awards.
Addressing the gala audience at the Grace Bible Church, Karlson said, "I'm stunned and amazed that I was nominated and now I am almost speechless to be selected. Thank you very much."
Karlson thanked her family for their love and support, noting that they enabled her to do what she does.
"Without the blessing and the grace of God in my life, I definitely wouldn't be able to do what I do," she said.
After the program, Champion for Children CEO Kevin Roberts told a gathering near the stage, including Karlson, "I am so proud of her. See that nice trophy up there, that's yours."
Karlson said, "This is a memory I will cherish a lifetime; I'm honored and privileged to receive the award named after the Honorable Judge Kelly and I give all the glory to God."
Karlson's Champion for Children bio notes that as a busy attorney she has managed to find the time to parent her two young children plus chair the Youth Development Council, mentor a student for the Take Stock in Children Program, volunteer in the classroom, teach in her church's vacation Bible school program, participate in Ag Venture and supervise student law internships.
Also, she has been involved in Zonta International, a group that works to develop strategies to prevent violence to women and children throughout the world.
Champion for Children Advocacy Center Director Jeff Roth told the gathering it is the 14th year for the gala that seems to grow bigger every year.
"We want to continue to honor the legacy of Judge Kelly, Highlands County's first resident circuit court judge," he said. "Prior to his death in 2005, he was a mentor to hundreds of children in Highlands County, many of which are probably in this audience this evening."
The event's theme was "Color My World."
Roberts said, "A child cries out 'color my world' and we do so when we teach our children patience and kindness and truth as well as wholesome and acceptable behavior. Values that judge Kelly would embraced and has embraced in his books"
The other finalists were: Charlene Edwards, Chris and Tanya Taylor, John Varady and Sandi Whidden. Prior to the event Roth said he was informed there were 430 attendees at the gala.
"I think that we have been booking at capacity the last couple of years," he said. "I don't think we could fit another table in here."
As the winner, Karlson receives a trophy, gifts and an all-expense paid cruise for two to the Caribbean.