Black Tie sat down with the philanthropist to find out more about her roots in philanthropy and her insatiable passion for being the voice of abused children.
Graci McGillicuddy is always donning blue. From the blue ribbon on her car, to her nail polish, clothes and accessories, blue seems to be her favorite color. That actually is the case, but for a deeper reason. Blue is the national color for child abuse prevention. Black Tie sat down with the philanthropist to find out more about her roots in philanthropy and her insatiable passion for being the voice of abused children.
My early involvement was with my children and my children’s schools. Having been a former schoolteacher, I volunteered in the schools and taught reading to the children who were having difficulty. I was very much involved in their activities. One time I drove all of the French students to Orlando on a field trip. I had to get my chauffer’s license to do it.
In 1986 I read this horrific story about Shannon Nicole, an 18-month-old baby who had been brutally abused and killed by her mother and her stepfather and just left in a heap at the hospital. When I read that, I couldn’t believe that anyone could ever do that. I mean, I put pillows in my kids’ jeans when they started rollerblading. It was around the time of my birthday, so instead of getting another piece of jewelry that I wanted, I asked (my husband) Dennis to help me make sure this didn’t happen to another baby. That’s when I found Child Protection Center. I’ve been involved in making this a safer, better world for children since.
A friend of mine, Kay Glasser, told me to look up Child Protection Center. I went there and I met Hal, the executive director at the time, and his parting words when we were talking were, “If I could just put the words ‘child abuse’ in a bottle and set it out to sea and 50 years from now, somebody open it and say ‘Child abuse? What’s that?” That’s when I knew the vision and the mission were completely aligned with my heart.
An image that I’ll never ever forget, that just has resonated to the depth of my core, was when I first came to CPC and I walked into the medical examination room and saw a tiny baby infant scale. That just gave me a sense of purpose. When you think of children having no voice, and those that are too little to literally have a voice — they can’t speak, they can’t talk, they have no advocates.
I was talking with a man who was abused as a child, who is a father now, and the way he treats his children is night and day to the way he was treated. The biggest question with child abuse is: How do we break the cycle?
Meeting him, I had to ask what influenced him to be a different father than what he had experienced. This man said he would watch “Leave it to Beaver” and he knew that what was going on in his home was not normal. He mowed the lawn for a man down the street, who took him under his wing and he was able to understand from that how children should be treated. That was what changed the direction of his life.
Having a teacher or someone who can come into a child’s life to change their life and not only help them, but help change the course of the future, that is how we change this. How can I be that change agent? That is my dream.
Every morning I wake up and I’m excited for the day. I am constantly trying to think how I can make a difference. I feel so grateful that I had the childhood that I had and I know the difference, I’ve had an amazing and supportive husband, and that I’ve been able to follow my passion. Children have no voice, and the people who are supposed to take care of them and nurture them are betraying them. I want to be the voice for those children.