Nonprofit media company Shine Global hosted its first-ever Children’s Resilience in Film Awards on Thursday to celebrate the impact of children’s stories in filmmaking. With a breakfast and ceremony held at Paramount Pictures Studios, the event — of which The Hollywood Reporter was a sponsor — awarded ballet documentary Lift with the inaugural Children’s Resilience in Film Award, which included a $25,000 cash prize from Shine Global.

Directed by David J. Petersen, Lift shines a spotlight on homelessness in America through a group of young home-insecure ballet dancers enrolled in New York Theater Ballet’s Lift program and the mentor who inspires them, renowned ballet dancer Steven Melendez.

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The runner-up nominees included Ham Tran’s Maika: The Girl From Another Galaxy, Engeli Broberg’s Gabi: Between Ages 8 and 13 and Jared Jakins’ Scenes From the Glittering World, all of which received a $2,500 cash prize. The winner was selected by a jury panel, including Kay Wilson Stallings, Maria Perez Brown, Amy Kennedy, Jana Sue Memel and THR‘s Scott Feinberg.

Hosted by Glee actor Mike O’Malley, the awards also recognized three special honorees: Youth Activist Award honoree and Philadelphia Youth Poet Laureate Cydney Brown for her work inspiring children and families to fight for change; Titan Award recipient and Sesame Street alum Sonia Manzano for her contributions to children’s entertainment; and Champion for Children Award recipient Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, for her dedication to advocating for children’s rights.

“While film has the power to change the hearts and minds of countless viewers, film alone cannot make this world a better, safer environment for our children to grow and thrive in,” Shine Global co-founder Susan MacLaury said in a speech. “We firmly believe that children’s voices must be elevated in every arena. In their respective spheres of influence, Congresswoman Roybal-Allard, Sonia Manzano and Cydney Brown have each leveraged their platforms and shown an incredible commitment to putting youth causes and perspectives at the forefront of the conversation.”

Cydney Brown accepts an award onstage from Mike O’Malley. Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

“All children are born resilient,” added Manzano while accepting her award virtually. “We had a Sesame Street producer who used to say, ‘If you look into a crowd of kids and say, anybody who can sing and dance raise your hand, they will all raise their hands.’ It’s our job to keep that hope in them alive, and these films that show us children and families that we might not ordinarily see make us understand that they should not be forgotten.”

Shine Global’s mission is to transform children’s lives through film and to give voice to kids and their families to raise awareness, promote action and inspire change. Previously, Shine Global won an Academy Award for best documentary short subject with 2013’s coming-of-age film Inocente.

“Few films capture the resilient spirit and hope that children possess even as they experience pain and trauma,” MacLaury said. “Even in the face of the most unimaginable tragedies, our youngest generations still find room to cultivate joy, flourish creatively and inspire a level of hope that far too many of us adults are lacking. We believe films that capture this complex balance of resilience and hope, even in the midst of unprecedented struggle, are films that should be elevated and yet rarely are. That’s why we created the Children’s Resilience in Film Award — these children and their uplifting stories deserve to be recognized and shared with new audiences across the globe.”

Shine Global co-founders Susan MacLaury and Albie Hecht Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

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