LUMBERTON — Proud parents across Robeson County are invited to let people gush over their beautiful babies for a good cause.
Starting Monday, registration for the Beautiful Baby Contest will be available through The Robesonian’s website. The entry fee is $20 and proceeds from the competition benefit the Robeson County Partnership for Children.
Founded in 1993, the nonprofit provides several developmental programs and activities for children under the age of 5. On Jan 1, it took over the day-to-day operations of the Exploration Station on North Chestnut Street from the facility’s previous owner, The Children’s Place of Robeson.
“RCPC relies on private donations and fundraisers to sustain operational expenses of our early childhood system,” said Jessica Lowry, the organization’s executive director. “Studies have indicated intervening in a child’s life with early education and other services provides a return of as much as $17 for each dollar invested in a high-quality, early learning environment for children.”
This marks the Robeson County Partnership for Children’s seventh annual installment of the Beautiful Baby Contest. Last year, the organization raised nearly $12,000 through the contest. Its goal for this year is $15,000.
“Support of the Beautiful Baby Contest shows us that our community recognizes the importance of a child’s first years,” Lowry said. “There are only 2,000 days between when a child is born and when that child enters kindergarten. This fundraiser allows us to promote our services and further our mission of every child in Robeson County entering school prepared and ready to succeed.”
The organization helps to prepare children for public school through its Smart Start initiative.
According to information provided by Lowry, during the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the Robeson County Partnership for Children’s programs reached about 8,600 children age 5 and under, sustained childcare subsidy for more than 630 children, provided services to 90 percent of the county’s child care facilities and offered 79 workshops for caregivers.
“Raising funds through this effort is always appreciated,” Lowry said. “Without these extra funds we would not be able to serve the thousands of young children and their parents that we currently provide services to.”
This year’s collection of beautiful babies can be viewed at www.robesonian.com following the registration deadline.
Photos of the contestants will be published in the Mother’s Day edition of the newspaper on May 12. Voting begins May 13 and runs through June 6. Participants can vote at the Robeson County Partnership for Children building in Lumberton by cash, check, debit or credit card; mail their vote in to the office at 210 E. Second St. Lumberton, N.C., 28358; or online using PayPal through their website, robesonpartnership.org. Each vote costs $1.
The winners will be published in The Robesonian on Father’s Day, June 16.
Two first place winners, one male and one female, will receive $100, a parade magnet, a trophy, and a crown or tiara. Second- through sixth-place winners will also receive trophies. The top 12 babies will be featured in the Robeson County Partnership for Children’s 2015 calender, which will be released in the fall.
Lori Noonan, the Robeson County Partnership for Children’s fund development and communications specialist, offered some tips on how parents can get their babies to stand out from the crowd.
“I would say just pick their cutest, most real candid shot that captures their child’s personality,” she said “That’s going to be way more popular than a dress or a certain kind of look.”
Children age 5 and younger are eligible for the contest. Parents, grandparents or guardian must be residents of Robeson County to enter.
“This contest is a reminder that every child is beautiful and deserves to reach his or her full potential,” Noonan said.
Jaymie Baxley can be reached at 910-272-6146, or on Twitter @Jaymie_Baxley