“Cheyenne...has been my greatest teacher of life and her brief presence has made my heart bigger, more spacious. I live my life as a memorial to her so that one day, when we’re in each other’s arms again, after too many years apart, she can look in my eyes and say, ‘Momma, you did me proud.’”
DR. JOANNE CACCIATORE Founder of the MISS Foundation
AS A MOTHER OF FIVE, “four who walk and one who soars,” Dr. Joanne Cacciatore understands how parents are affected by the tragedy of losing a child. Cacciatore gave birth to Cheyenne in 1994. Upon Cacciatore’s urging tothe Arizona Senate, Cheyenne was the first baby who died during birth in the United States to receive a Certificate of Birth. After losing her daughter, she went into a dark place of depression. Yet, Cacciatore says, “I made a promise to my dead child that if I survived the pain, because I wasn’t sure I would, I would make sure other families enduring this tragedy would not need to endure it alone.”
She discovered that a way to heal was to show kindness to others; she started the MISS Foundation. This organization has grown from a small, local nonprofit, which Cacciatore founded in 1996, to a huge international nonprofit with 77 chapters around the world. The MISS Foundation C.A.R.E.S. for families who are enduring life’s worst tragedy: the death of a child or another loved one. “We can’t save children, so we help save their families. We focus our efforts on counseling, advocacy, research, education and support, thus the acronym C.A.R.E.S,” Cacciatore says.
Although she received the prestigious Hon Kachina Award in 2007 and the Sr. Teresa Compassionate CareAward in 2008, she never stopped caring for others once her work was recognized. Cacciatore, who is also a professor and researcher at Arizona State University, continues to create outlets, like the Kindness Project, for the bereaved. The Kindness Project is a way for families to honor their loved ones by performing random acts of kindness in memory of those who died. The idea is to show someone’s life and death continues to matter, as Cheyenne’s does. —S.L.