Community leaders honored for children’s advocacy work at Hope and Healing Breakfast

  • Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan listens as he is given the Hero of Justice Award. Staff photo/Paul Franz

  • Children’s Advocacy Center Board President Bill Benson welcomes those attending the Breakfast. Staff photo/Paul Franz

  • Children’s Advocacy Center Executive Director Irene Woods speaks at the CAC’s Breakfast at GCC. Staff photo/Paul Franz

  • Keynote speaker Kate Price talks of her experience of being sexually trafficked as a child. Staff photo/Paul Franz

  • The Athol Police Department received the Champion of Children Award at the Children’s Advocacy Center’s seventh annual Hope and Healing Breakfast at GCC on Friday morning. Accepting were Athol Detective Sgt. Doug Kaczmarczyk and Officer Courtney Call. Staff photo/Paul Franz

  • Keynote speaker Kate Price talks of her experience of being sexually trafficked as a child to those in attendance at the Children’s Advocacy Center’s seventh annual Hope and Healing Breakfast at Greenfield Community College on Friday morning. Staff photo/Paul Franz

  • Lynda Zukowski, left, received the Community Star Award. Staff photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 9/19/2022 1:02:04 PM
Modified: 9/19/2022 1:01:23 PM

GREENFIELD — The Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County and North Quabbin bestowed awards upon community members on Friday at its first Hope and Healing Breakfast since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Board member Lynda Zukowski, the Athol Police Department and Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan received accolades and kudos in Greenfield Community College’s main campus building for an event focused not on trauma but rather strength and perseverance.

Zukowski was honored with the center’s Community Star Award while the Athol Police received the Champion of Children Award and Sullivan was bestowed with the Hero of Justice Award. Bill Benson, the center’s board president, welcomed everyone and thanked them for coming. He said the ongoing pandemic has meant the center could hold no fundraisers, but he mentioned generous donors have kept the organization afloat.

During the award presentations, Benson spoke of how he met Sullivan when the two were board members of the Franklin-Hampshire Children’s Advocacy Center.

“And he came to us and started bugging us, as he is capable of doing,” Benson said lightheartedly. “He says, ‘You know, the data in Franklin County/North Quabbin is really bad. And it’s just sinful to have people, children, go from Athol or Orange to Northampton,’ which is where the Hampshire CAC is based.”

With Sullivan seated in the audience, Benson displayed Sullivan’s new award.

“Now you’re an official hero, Dave. Would you please come up and accept your gift?” he said to applause. Sullivan accepted the award and shook Benson’s hand before immediately returning to his seat.

“This is a very rare moment that you’ve just experienced — Dave Sullivan said nothing,” Benson joked, prompting laughter from those in attendance, including Sullivan as he was walking back to his seat.

Case manager Abby Bliss then took the podium to speak on the center’s mission and to introduce Zukowski and the Athol Police Department.

“This work we do is hard. We struggle, we advocate, we fight, we scrounge,” she said. “Some days our highs are basement level and our lows have no floor. And some days the power of resilience shines its rays on our upturned and thirsty faces. It fills us with gratitude, with healing, with hope. Today is one of those days.”

She mentioned Zukowski has been a board member for six years and welcomed her to the stage.

“I had the opportunity to meet Lynda for the first time last year and was instantly awed by her vibrant, loving, hilarious mama-bear energy,” Bliss said. “Lynda will take an idea and make it better just by focusing her attention on it.”

Bliss then introduced Athol Police Detective Sgt. Doug Kaczmarczyk and Officer Courtney Call. She said Athol has one of the highest rates of child sexual abuse in the state and, as a result, many — if not the majority of the center’s cases — come out of Athol. But Bliss said Kaczmarczyk is a hardworking and diligent detective who goes above and beyond for his cases.

“His team is also a pleasure to work with,” Bliss said.

She also recalled a story of an Athol teenager who had required continuous police intervention within the previous two years. These calls became more frequent and one evening the teenager refused to go home. Bliss said Call and another officer used compassion and understanding to determine the teenager was enduring long-term sexual abuse at home, and they got her out of a dangerous situation.

“I watched as Courtney went to greet the child after she came to the CAC for her interview,” Bliss recounted. “Courtney gave her a big hug and told her that she was proud of her, as tears welled in her eyes.

“You can look at this story in two different ways,” Bliss added. “You can see the heartbreaking side, but also imagine the resilience a simple act like this can build in the life of a young victim.”

The breakfast event’s keynote speaker was Kate Price, a visiting scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women and a senior research associate at Advocates for Human Potential, a health and human services research and evaluation firm. Price is the subject of “Kate Price remembers something terrible,” an in-depth piece by Boston Globe reporter Janelle Nanos. Price was trafficked by her father as a child in Appalachia.

Attendees hung on every word Price spoke and marveled at her strength and sense of humor. Price said she is still piecing together the trauma she endured.

“I will never have the complete picture,” she said. “I shouldn’t even be alive, let alone standing here.”

Price received a standing ovation as she left the stage.

Before the awards were bestowed, Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener gave a blessing and spoke about the center’s work, which she said “brings a light to the darkest halls of the human experience.”

Irene Woods, the center’s retiring executive director, said she is leaving with a full heart because of what the organization has accomplished.

“I am just thrilled,” she said, getting choked up.

Before leaving, attendees were treated to a performance by dancers with Ja’Duke Center for the Performing Arts.

More information on the Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County and North Quabbin is available online at

Reach Domenic Poli at: or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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