For Graci McGillicuddy, helping the victims of child abuse has been a lifetime commitment.  It began one day in 1986 when she read a newspaper article about 18-month-old Shannon Nicole, who died after being brutally abused by her mother and stepfather. Shannon’s lifeless little body was then stuffed into a diaper bag and dumped by the hospital. Unable to fully comprehend how any child could be so mistreated, ending child abuse became Graci’s life’s calling.

Graci never looked back. She has worked tirelessly to prevent child abuse and provide treatment and care for our community’s most vulnerable children.  In 1987, she was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Child Protection Center and became a leading force in children’s advocacy throughout the region.  In 2004, she was appointed by Governor Bush to serve on the Governor’s Mentoring Initiative, which in 2005 became the Florida Mentoring Initiative.  In 2008, she was appointed to the Governor’s Child Abuse Prevention and Permanency Advisory Council and was reappointed in 2009.  This Council serves as the research arm for the Governor’s office and is critical to Florida’s efforts to prevent child abuse and promote adoption.

Graci has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors for her outstanding leadership and dedication to helping keep all children safe and free from abuse.  In November 2009, Senate President, Jeff Atwater presented Graci with the Florida Senate’s “Spirit of Service” Award, the highest honor bestowed on civilians, and on October 11, 2014 she was presented with the “Lightning Community Hero” award by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik on behalf of the Lightning Foundation.

Baby Shannon Nicole did not die in vain. Because of her, Graci has been a powerful force for change in the lives of abused children for 30 years.