The Amy Merrell Steps to Success Endowment

The first endowment made to ProKids occurred in late 2015, a landmark made possible by Elizabeth “Liz” Ricci in honor of her sister, Amy Merrell.

Ricci, who is from Montgomery, Ohio, created the Amy Merrell Steps to Success Endowment to remember her sister who died earlier in 2015. Ricci had learned about CASA organizations like ProKids while a Kappa Alpha Theta at Indiana University. Nationally, CASA is the partner philanthropy for the Theta sorority.

ProKids volunteers are Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs). They work with family members, foster parents, county social workers, school professionals, healthcare providers and others to advocate for the best interest of the children they serve. CASA Volunteers, working with ProKids staff, help find safe, permanent and nurturing homes for the children they work with and break the vicious cycle of child abuse and neglect.

“My sister gave tirelessly to this community,” Ricci said. “As I struggled with my family to come to terms with her death, I thought about how to keep her spirit alive. When I found ProKids, I knew I had found a way to do that.”

She said she was struck by the “tangible difference ProKids was making on a one-to-one basis for these children.”

“If these children have different childhoods, they can become successful adults,” she said. “That makes a difference for our entire community.”

Ricci learned that of the thousands of children who are abused and neglected in Greater Cincinnati, ProKids could only touch some of them.

The endowment enables ProKids to make plans to serve even more children far into the future, said ProKids Executive Director Tracy Cook. And that makes a very real difference for children.

“For nearly two decades, 98 percent of the children we serve have been free from abuse and neglect,” said Cook. “When those in the child protection system are 10 times more likely to be abused or neglected, we know that our outcomes reflect real change for these children.”

Compared to national statistics, ProKids outcomes also show that children are more likely to live with their siblings, are more likely to get therapy and educational services they need, and are less likely to move from placement to placement.

“The work of ProKids is breaking the cycle of abuse and neglect,” Ricci said. “I hope this encourages others to think about ways to help. We don’t want to wait when there are so many children that need ProKids.”

ProKids Board President Tom Cuni said stopping abuse and neglect community “is not a one-generation problem and will not be a one-generation solution. An endowment means meeting the needs of our children across generations and for the long-term. We are grateful to Liz for this endowment.”