Single Mothers Outreach officials honored six women Saturday who have changed lives and shaped the Santa Clarita community, organizers said.
The seventh annual Empowering HeArts Gala celebrated the accomplishments of Martha Aguilera, Monica Blanco, Kamila Diaz, Nicole Feast-Williams, Kim Flores and Janelle Percy — women that exemplify this year’s theme of “Courage,” according to officials.
The event was attended by about 250 people, including the master of ceremonies Assemblyman Dante Acosta, R-Santa Clarita, city council members Marsha McLean and Bill Miranda, as well as many other community leaders.
The gala raised money for Single Mothers Outreach (SMO) and gave attendees a chance to meet the honorees and prominent members of the Santa Clarita Valley community.
Martha Aguilera, owner of Koklita’s Cakes and More, teaches by example on a daily basis, according to SMO officials. Aguilera had to overcome an abusive childhood, abandonment and homelessness only to be left to find her way as a single, teenage mother.
Monica Blanco grew up with little parental guidance, support or means. By age 15, she was pregnant with her first child, Mariah, who became the inspiration for Blanco’s strength. Determined to achieve self-sufficiency, Blanco founded Colour Couture Inc.
Kamila Diaz was working to become a deaf and hard of hearing specialist when she discovered a lump in her breast. At age 26, she was diagnosed with triple positive breast cancer. She persevered and graduated with a 4.0 grade point average.
When Nicole Feast-Williams was 11 years old, she carried her sexual abuse alone. Today, Feast-Williams shares her story with many different people in the hopes that no one else has to go through that trauma alone.
Diagnosed with dyslexia, Kim Flores was told she’d never succeed as a writer. Flores now has published four books, one that sits on Amazon’s Top 100 Downloads list.
Janelle Percy spent 11 years as a United States Air Force instructor and evaluator pilot. Her husband, Jeff, also a fighter pilot, was killed in a crash last August. Today, Percy provides and cares for their two daughters while also volunteering in the community.
The event also presented the creative works of Santa Clarita Valley artists who create unique and inspiring art forms inspired by these real life stories.
The artists are charged with telling an honoree’s story visually and a grand prize was awarded to the artist who told the most compelling story.
The works of art were judged and two awards were presented: the Dottie Award — awarded to the artist who created the most compelling visual story; and People’s Choice — awarded by the gala attendees from votes taken at the event.
Dawn Grider won both of these awards for her compelling piece of a tree breaking through cement showing perseverance, a quality all of the women honored at the gala have shown in their stories, officials said.
It is Single Mother Outreach officials’ hope that through sharing these powerful stories in word and art, these extraordinary women will impact and inspire others to rise above their own circumstances.
Empowering Hearts is SMO’s signature fundraising event. All proceeds from the event are used to support programs that empower single parents to effectively care for their families.
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