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Cacciatore to receive prestigious Hon Kachina award

September 12, 2007

Joanne Cacciatore, program coordinator in the College of Human Services at Arizona State University, has been chosen as a 2007 recipient of Arizona’s most prestigious award for volunteerism: the Hon Kachina Volunteer Award. Cacciatore was nominated for the Hon Kachina award for her work on behalf of mourning families.

Through her own tragedy, Cacciatore created an international movement to comfort grieving parents. After one of her children died, she soothed her grief by founding a family bereavement organization that has 77 support groups worldwide, 6,000 online members and a website that receives 1.5 million hits each month.

“Joanne has been extremely dedicated to her volunteer work, and I am impressed with her compassion for helping families in their time of grief,” said John Hepburn, dean of the College of Human Services. “She has served as an invaluable link between ASU’s Social Work department and the community of practitioners with professional interests in treating loss and bereavement. We sincerely applaud her tireless efforts.”

In 1996 Cacciatore founded the MISS Foundation, a non-profit, volunteer-based organization committed to providing crisis support and long-term aid to families after the death of a child from any cause. An online newsletter goes to 12,500 subscribers. The organization encourages grieving families to participate in healing acts through the Kindness Project™, a program designed to encourage bereaved families to get involved in volunteerism and philanthropy in their local communities.

In her efforts to promote better understanding about infant and child death, Cacciatore has enacted legislation, increased education and awareness among professionals, and provided support for surviving children. In 2001 Cacciatore lobbied to pass the MISSing Angels bill, which is now in effect in 21 states. Featured in the New York Time and People magazine, the MISSing Angels bill provides families a Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth. She also helped pass legislation that established the Unexplained Infant Death Advisory Council and a measure to educate first responders on compassionate care to families.

Cacciatore has authored five books, and is a founding member of the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation. In addition, she served as chair for the Sudden Infant Death Advisory Council and is a current member of the Unexplained Infant Death Advisory Council.

As founder and CEO of the MISS Foundation, Cacciatore has coordinated and directed numerous conferences and community forums including “Be-ing in Grief” A Weekend Retreat for Bereaved Parents, When a Child Dies: The Vow to Remember and Call to Comfort, and a host of golf tournaments and symposiums. On Saturday, Sept. 22, Cacciatore will organize the annual Infant and Child Death Prevention and Safety Day event, a day-long information fair. The fair will be held at the Peoria Sports Arena, Peoria, Ariz.

A single mom with five children, Cacciatore always makes time to volunteer to help other families, even while working multiple part-time jobs and completing a master’s degree in Social Work. Currently, she is a Ph.D. candidate in Human Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she is specializing in child, youth and family studies. Cacciatore is developing a Certificate in Trauma and Bereavement at ASU. A part-time faculty member at ASU’s West campus, she teaches classes in human behavior, social work, and death counseling.

Cacciatore has taken a grassroots approach to the worldwide level. Through her efforts, she is changing society’s attitudes surrounding infant and child death. Her contributions will be felt by bereaved families for generations to come.

In her words, “I believe that one person can change the world . . . even if that person is now only a memory.”

Presented in Phoenix annually since 1977, the Hon Kachina Volunteer Awards program is designed to both recognize the achievement of outstanding Arizona volunteers and to increase public awareness about volunteerism.

The Hon Kachina Council will honor Cacciatore for her volunteer work on Saturday, October 13, at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort, Phoenix. For information about the event contact Pam Betz 480-905-1578 or