Catherine Pisacane fits precisely our definition of a "modern day superwoman." We are SO thrilled to have Catherine on our planning team for Boston GLOW's third annual IGNITE the NITE fundraiser. She has devoted her life to education and giving back to the community that she loves, building and leading an incredibly successful organization called Project Smile, which has gained local and national attention from the media, politicians, celebrities, sports teams and most importantly, has touched the lives of thousands of hurting kids. As if all that wasn't enough, she signed on to join Boston GLOW on our mission to make the world a better place for women. Not sure how this rockstar lady has the time to sleep, but we are so glad to know her.
Q: Catherine, tell us about yourself.
A: I graduated from Hunter College with a BA in English and I have a MA in Criminal Justice from Anna Maria College. Some of favorite activities are photography, cooking, dancing, board games, movies and day trips. I also run a social organization for women who love shoes and fashion, the Smiling Stiletto Shoe Club. We get together monthly for cocktail parties, shopping events and fashion shows. Smiling Stiletto also helps support Project Smile. I love to meet new people and I’m involved with a few different Meet Up groups.
Q: Tell us about Project Smile.
A: Project Smile is a non profit organization dedicated to easing the pain and fear of children involved in traumatic situations. We donate stuffed animals, reading books, coloring books and crayons to police and fire departments for individual officers, fire fighters and paramedics to give to children. Since our founding in October 2003, we have donated over 33,000 stuffed animals and work with 180 police and fire departments in New England. Many of the children who receive our items were involved in car accidents, witnessed domestic violence, are victims of child abuse, coping with the loss of a loved one, or sick/injured. We also partner with the Dept. of Children and Families and homeless shelters and donate stuffed animals and other items for children living in homeless shelters or entering foster care.
Q: What inspired you to found Project Smile?
A: Project Smile was founded in October 2003 after I read a newspaper article about 4 brothers from New Jersey who were starved by their adoptive parents. The article said that when the police came to take the children out of the home, one of the boys was given a stuffed animal by a police officer and the child clung to it and refused to let go of it. The article inspired me to organize a stuffed animal drive in the school department where I worked so that police officers could have stuffed animals for the children they interact with who have been victims of traumatic events. The drive was a huge success and Project Smile was created.
Q: What some of the biggest challenges you have run into with Project Smile and how have you overcome them?
A: Fundraising is one of the biggest challenges that I face. Fundraising is very time consuming and requires a lot of patience and persistence. I am the only full time employee at Project Smile, so that in itself is a challenge. There are many tasks to get done which I am solely responsible. I overcome that challenge by breaking down large goals into small, manageable daily tasks. I work hard to try to balance the program work with fundraising efforts.
Q: In the next 5 years, what do you hope Project Smile will be able to achieve?
A: In the next five years, I hope that Project Smile partners with at least 300 departments (we currently partner with 180) and is able to hire multiple staff people so that the organization can expand and help more children who are victims of traumatic events.
Q: How did you become involved with Boston GLOW?
A: I became involved with GLOW after reading an email that came through on a young professionals in non-profits list serve. The email was asking for committee members to help with marketing/PR for their upcoming special fundraiser. I checked out GLOW’s website and was impressed by their mission and how much they are able to accomplish, particularly with being all volunteer run.
Q: How has your experience with Project Smile helped you to contribute to GLOW?
A: My experience with Project Smile can help GLOW because I know what it is like to start an organization from the ground up. I have experience in organizing events and I wanted to share my experience with GLOW and help where I can. I have always been grateful for the people who have helped me along the way, so I want to help others as well.
Q: What would you like to see change for women in the world?
A: I would like to see all young girls raised being told that there is nothing that they can’t accomplish. I was lucky enough as a child that both my parents told me that I could do whatever I want- have any career that I wanted to. I never thought about that growing up, but as I got older I realized the confidence that gave me. When I met someone who wasn't supportive of my early career plans, I just looked at them and wondered what their problem was- I believed that I could do anything. When a woman believes in herself, all the struggles and obstacles will be a little bit smaller and that woman will be strong and tough enough to push through.
Q: If you could give a single piece of advice to to the young women finalists of the 2013 IGNITE Change Leadership Contest, what would it be?
A: I would advise young women to be open minded, patient and persistent. You never know where the next job opportunity will be lie or what will inspire you to move onto bigger and better things. It is important to be open minded so that when that opportunity comes, you can seize it. It is also equally important to be patient and persistent- success takes a long time to come and you have to be happy with small progress. You also have to be persistent in following your goal and not giving up. Success isn't necessarily about who is the smartest or most talented or well connected- it is also about who shows up, works hard and doesn't give up.
To learn more about Project Smile and how you can get involved, visit their website