Meet the 2024 Gerber Baby photo contest winner: Akil ‘Sonny’ McLeod Jr.

Looking for your daily dose of cute? The annual Gerber Baby photo contest has designated a new “CGO."

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The 2024 Gerber baby Akil "Sonny" McLeod Jr. appears on the "Today" show. (Screenshot:Today/YouTube)

Gerber has announced its newest “Chief Growing Officer” or “CGO!” The winner of the baby food brand’s annual photo contest is one-year-old Akil McLeod Jr.

According to a release from Gerber, Akil McLeod Jr., who goes by the nickname “Sonny,” is the youngest of two children, living with his parents and equally adorable big sister Sage in Arizona.

While appearing on the “Today” show as a family unit, his mother, Dominique, revealed she submitted Sonny to the contest on a secret whim.

She said, “I thought, well, what are the odds, right? Thousands of babies are submitted every year.”

She also didn’t initially tell his father, Akil McLeod Sr., until she received an email saying Sonny had been chosen as a finalist.

“Akil’s very protective of his children, as he should be,” she explained.

When Akil learned his son was a finalist, he was excited and confident that he would win.

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“Everyone thinks their kids are special, but this is different,” he told the outlet. “I was telling them the other day, I feel like I’m here to just be their dad and guide them along the way. But they’re here for something way bigger than I could ever imagine for both of them. They have something about them, and they unleash something in us.”

In addition to the title, the honor comes with a $25,000 grand prize, a year’s supply of Gerber products, a new camera, and additional baby supplies.

According to the release, for the first time in the contest’s history, this year’s winner was selected by parents of previous Gerber Babies alongside Gerber employees.

It wasn’t just baby Sonny who won big, either. In both the release and on the “Today” show, it was also revealed that the McLeod family has a strong passion for community service. His father, Akil, discussed a Black fathers’ group he’s active in called M.A.N.C.A.V.E., hosted by the Greater Phoenix Urban League. The organization helps bring Black fathers together, affording them a space to find support and camaraderie. “Today” hosts announced that Gerber intended to donate $5,000 to the organization, which Akil noted would be able to help them host more events to connect with even more fathers. 

“We couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate his first birthday than to be chosen as the 2024 Gerber Baby,” Dominque said in the release. “We look forward to all the adventures in the year ahead collaborating with Gerber to share his sweet smile with families across the country.” 

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