Photos submitted Pictured are the two nominees of the Champion of Children Award - Amber Gochenour, of Paulding and Cathy Ruiz, of Payne.

PAULDING – Recently, two local women were nominated for the Champion of Children Award. It is an award that is given by the Northwest Ohio CASA chapter. The requirement to be nominated was that the person, “goes beyond the call of duty, does more than their share and steps up without question. To be a person any would be be blessed to have on their side,” added Rhonda Bakle, the Paulding County board member for the Northwest Ohio CASA chapter.

The two women nominated were Amber Gochenour and Cathy Ruiz, both residents of Paulding County.

Gochenour, presently is the Director of Little Sprouts Early Learning Center. She recently transitioned to there from the Paulding County Health Department. Included in Gochenour’s glowing recommendation are her certifications. She was successful in obtaining a free grant for car seats. According to Andrea Schlueter, she is “very passionate about referring people to our WIC program for Women, Infant and Children and received an award in 2018 for the ‘Most Supportive Breastfeeding RN in the County.”

Gochenour is not only the director of the new early center, but she is the driving force behind its creation. She knew the community needed an option for infant childcare and she followed her passion.

Ruiz is presently a parent mentor for the Paulding County Schools. She helps guides families through the Special Education progress. She is also the Coordinator/Service Coordinator, Paulding County Family and Children First Council; a member of the Executive Committee for the Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities and is a member and certified trainer on human trafficking for the Lima NWO Rescue and Restore Coalition for Victims of Human Trafficking.

Karla Treece nominated Ruiz for the award. She stated, “Cathy Ruiz is one special lady with a heart of gold and a caring heart. Cathy goes on and beyond the call of duty within all of the hats she wears.”

Bakle was tasked with sending one nomination to the chapter board. She stated that she simply could not choose. When she presented both nominees to the board they were willing to accept both. Bakle was relieved that both were accepted. “They are both such wonderful people, there was no way I could choose just one.”

Paulding County is only as great as its residents. Gochenour and Ruiz are two phenomenal assets to the county.