AWARDS CEREMONY: (From left) LACASA President & CEO Bobette Schrandt; CAP Council Coordinator Holly Naylor; Champion Award Recipient Gus Ventrone; Great Start Collaborative Coordinator Robin Schutz.

CAP Council’s Champion of Children Award

APRIL — The 2018 Champion for Children award recipient was announced recently during LACASA’s Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) Council’s “Champion Awards Luncheon” at the Howell Opera House.

Gus Ventrone was named the winner in honor of his kindness to and support of the children and staff of Navigator Upper Elementary School in Pinckney, and his support of families in the Pinckney and Livingston County communities.

The Champion for Children award is a joint effort between the CAP Council and the Great Start Collaborative of Livingston County to recognize outstanding individuals who devote significant time and energy to helping children in Livingston County.

A Vietnam veteran who works at Navigator Upper Elementary School in Pinckney, Ventrone serves as one of the lunchroom supervisors. Beyond simply keeping up with the 8 to 12 year olds that he supervises, he holds in-school popcorn sale fundraisers that help support needy families at the holidays. Ventrone also leads a yearly canned food drive, which helps replenish a community food pantry program at Farley Hill Elementary School.

His nomination letter stood out to the selection committee in large part to the fact that five teachers and 65 students contributed supportive and appreciative comments to the nomination.

One teacher stated that Ventrone is “a positive life force for the building,” and that he “takes extra special care of each and every student and teacher with his infectious enthusiasm, generosity, and never ending kindness.” Thank you notes from students to Ventrone include comments like “You are very kind, hand out candy, and make me smile,” “You are nice and like high fives,” and “You know how to solve problems.”

Ventrone understands that little things make a difference, that’s why he always carries a stash of candy to share with students (and school staff) when he talks with them. He works hard to establish supportive relationships with all students, especially those sitting by themselves at lunch or those who can be challenging at times.

“Mr. Ventrone’s impact on students demonstrates the power that many small actions over time can have in helping to create a community that values and supports children,” said Holly Naylor, CAP Council coordinator.

“Many of us think of child abuse prevention as being only direct intervention, or working with high-risk families, or donating time or money to organizations such as the CAP Council.” Naylor said. “But child abuse prevention can take many forms.”

As one selection committee member said, being able to connect with children in a positive way IS prevention. “Mr. Ventrone shows up every school day to provide not only popcorn and candy, but also smiles, high-fives, problem solving, encouragement, and support through the simple acts of sitting with and listening to children.”

April, which is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, is when CAP launches its annual Pinwheels for Prevention Campaign in Livingston County and hosts the Champion Awards Luncheon.

For questions about the Champion for Children award, the Champion Awards Luncheon, or CAP Council programs contact the CAP Council at or call 517-548-1350.