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Matilda Cuomo named 'champion' for kids

ALBANY -- Matilda Raffa Cuomo, the state's former first lady and current first mom, will receive the Champion for New York's Children and Families Award.

The lifetime achievement honor from the Maternity and Early Childhood Foundation in Albany will be presented to Cuomo at a luncheon today at the Century House in Latham, north of Albany. About 150 people are expected to attend.

Cuomo was chosen for the inaugural award "because she has shown exemplary leadership over many years on the issues of children and families," said Joy Griffith, executive director of the foundation. She noted Cuomo's efforts as first lady from 1983 to 1995, as chairwoman of the New York State Decade of the Child initiative, the New York State Citizens Task Force on the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, and co-chaired the Governor's Commission on Child Care.

At the request of her husband, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, she established the New York State Mentoring Program in 1987 focused on reducing rising high school dropout rates. It was the nation's first statewide, school-based, one-to-one mentoring program.

She also is the founder of Mentoring USA, a national organization formed in 1995 in which she remains active.

Cuomo and the former governor live in New York City. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is one of her five children.

It is the group's first fundraiser and part of a plan to find new revenues after its state budget was severely cut. This year, it received $300,000 from the state and divided that money among 10 agencies. In the past, it received as much as $2 million annually from the state, which helped to fund 40 agencies.

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