Cheri Heath Fuller - 2017 Winner

2017 WINNER!
Cheri Fuller is making a positive difference in the lives of current and future generations of Oklahomans with every breath she takes. As a veteran speaker, teacher, and author of books for parents and teachers on how to help kids succeed in school and in life, Cheri continues to work tirelessly on behalf of children in our state.

After learning that Oklahoma incarcerated more women and mothers than any state in the U.S., Cheri did further research and discovered that there are tens of thousands of children with one or both parents in Oklahoma prisons. Deprived of their primary parent, they struggle with fear (Is Mom okay, or beaten up?), guilt (If I’d been a better kid, this wouldn’t have happened), loneliness and sadness that interfere with their ability to focus and learn in school. If their family was poor, the children live in even more poverty after the primary breadwinner goes to jail and is locked up for years while the kids are shuffled between relatives. These kids have a higher risk for substance abuse, delinquency, and academic failure. Without intervention and prevention programs, they are seven times more likely to be incarcerated than other children.

But Cheri knew there was hope, if she could get volunteers to come together and make a positive and lasting difference in these kids’ lives. In July of 2010, when she should have been looking forward to her retirement, Cheri founded Oklahoma Messages Project, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Each year, Cheri and her team of generous volunteers visit prisons across the state of Oklahoma for several months before Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. They film parents reading books to their children and sharing personal messages. They then send the completed videos, along with the book(s) that the parent reads, to the children in care of their guardians. The videos and books provide each child with a positive, loving message, and allow them to be able to read a bedtime story with Mom or Dad each night. It reminds each child that they are loved and not forgotten. This process helps maintain and improve the parent-child relationship, boost literacy, and improve the child’s social, emotional, and educational outcomes. It also helps break the cycle of these children becoming incarcerated as adults.

Cheri Fuller is making a huge difference in the lives of these children, and therefore, in the future of our state and its overwhelming prison population. But she needs new volunteers all the time, and the funds to pay for the books, filming, and transportation to the prisons. She is the perfect candidate to receive the “Helping Oklahoma” contest grand prize.

This Year's Nominees

Click on nominees to read more about them.

Nominated by Shannon Rich
Nominated by Sharon Mocabee-Sisco
Nominated by Casey Shupe
Nominated by Kay Harsha
Nominated by Philip Wong
Nominated by Shane Fernandez
Nominated by Stephanie Giacomo
Nominated by Melissa Baldwin
Nominated by Caryl Parsons
Nominated by Tori Garrett
Nominated by Taprina Milburn
Nominated by Barbara Butner
Nominated by Dawn Byram
Nominated by Marcus McEntire
Nominated by Debby Hampton
Nominated by Ruben Reyes
Nominated by Pamela Ballard
Nominated by Cristi Twenter
Nominated by Mandi Mays
Nominated by Melissa York
Nominated by Laurie Tilley
Nominated by David Rackley