Shirley McCann Gee, Archives Manager 2016-12-17 19:34:56
A VISIONARY WOMAN, DONNA STONE SAW A BETTER FUTURE FOR CHILDREN Donna had been following Johnny's story in the newspaper. When she picked up the paper that morning in 1972, the first thing she saw was the picture of the innocent boy with the cropped hair and smile. Johnny died from a severe beating he received from his father. The young boy fought hard and remained in a coma for a month before he died. At age 4, Johnny and four siblings had been removed from their parents' home and placed in a loving foster home where they remained for three years. When Johnny was 7, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services decided the parents were rehabilitated, and the children were returned to them. Four months later, Johnny's dad called the police and announced he had just beaten his son. His father received a sentence of life in prison. His mother received a shorter term. Johnny's story became national news. There was an outcry across the country, and states began reassessing their family laws. Finally, the door was kicked open. Families and neighbors would begin talking about child abuse. It would no longer be discussed in a whisper. Donna Stone immediately went into action. "We realized back in 1972 that the most important unfunded project was in the area of child abuse," she said in 1980. How could it be stopped? She created the National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse (now Prevent Child Abuse America), which she founded in Chicago, with "seed" money from her own funds. Donna was the daughter of philanthropists W. Clement and Jessie V. Stone. She had already served as president of her parents' foundation, administering more than $100 million for educational programs for youth. According to a 1976 survey conducted by the National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse, less than 10 percent of the public was aware that child abuse existed. It was a taboo subject that was not discussed in "polite conversation." Donna felt that educating the public, making everyone aware of the problem, was the first way to deter abuse. The organization initiated a nationwide campaign through the Advertising Council of New York in 1979. The public awareness commercial included the catch phrase, "Help destroy a family tradition: Prevent child abuse." The commercial was filmed in a state prison and brought more than 100,000 requests for information. Donna, a graduate of Northwestern University and a member of Lambda Chapter of Kappa Delta, requested a conversation with the Kappa Delta National Council. She spoke for two hours and captivated the women, mostly mothers themselves, with her passion and empathetic stories regarding child abuse. Donna's request wasn't for money. It was to use the sorority members as a conduit to get the word out all over the country. She felt addressing the topic with mothers, sisters, grandmothers and families across the country would allow word to spread more quickly. It was two years later when the leaders realized raising funds would be necessary to make an impact. In the winter 1983 issue of The Angelos, Patricia Beecham Nieman, then national director of philanthropy, reported that as a result of Donna's encouragement and Kappa Delta's continuing concern and interest in children, the National Council had agreed the prevention of child abuse would become a Kappa Deltasponsored philanthropy at the local level as well as the national level. "Child abuse is a community problem and a community responsibility," Pat said. Collegiate and alumnae chapters were asked to work together where possible to create ways to raise funds for PCA America. This was a more formal way of collecting philanthropy funds than the sorority had used in the past. Funds were usually raised through Christmas seals or individual events held by alumnae chapters. One specific event would be held to raise these funds. A nationwide philanthropy contest held in 1983 was won by the San Antonio Alumnae Chapter. The members of this AC dressed in green and white and decorated a booth with shamrocks in a busy pedestrian mall where they collected money for their local PCA America chapter. They were so successful, the sorority chose a similar drive for the national event and announced in the winter 1984 Angelos it would take place on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1984. Every chapter was encouraged to participate. It was decided from the beginning that 80 percent of the funds a collegiate or alumnae chapter raised would go to local child abuse programs while 20 percent would support the national effort. The Shamrock Project, now known as Shamrock Event, was officially launched nationwide. Donna continued to work tirelessly to expand child abuse prevention efforts, and today PCA America has local branches in all 50 states. From the early years, the local organizations provided training, and classes to help children in need soon followed. Some states that had not previously collected data on child abuse created departments to study the problem, as others developed procedures to collect abuse data more accurately. However, Donna soon began to fight another battle that she ultimately would lose. She was diagnosed with cancer and died in February 1985. But her legacy remains. Each year, Kappa Deltas volunteer thousands of hours raising funds and awareness for the cause. Collegiate and alumnae chapters may choose a Shamrock Event and a time of year to host it that works best in their community. Events such as 5K runs, golf tournaments, war-of-the-wings, baseball tournaments, spaghetti dinners, basketball dunks or tournaments, fashion shows, doughnut sales or paintball tournaments are held every year. Many of these events are competition-based to motivate campus involvement. Through these Shamrock events, Kappa Delta has placed more than $21 million in the hands of local facilities and organizations that work directly with children who have been neglected and physically abused. Giving has more than doubled in the past four years with Kappa Delta's annual support of child abuse prevention totaling more than $2.3 million. Kappa Delta will continue its financial support and awareness of the issue through Shamrock, in an effort to bring happy childhoods and support to all children. Donna Stone easily qualifies as a visionary. Her philanthropic heart led her to create a better world for children. Donna is a worthy representative of the Visionary Women of Kappa Delta. Donna Stone, Prevent Child Abuse America and Shamrock events are featured in the Kappa Delta Museum at National Headquarters.
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