Amy Merrell’s friends, family craft a legacy—and an endowment for ProKids


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With a beer custom-brewed in her memory and a cause that will live on, Amy Merrell’s friends and family celebrated her life as they helped build the first endowment for ProKids.

The event was part of Rhinegeist Brewery’s new Charitable Suds initiative. Rhinegeist is planning quarterly events for community organizations.

Merrell, who died in February 2015, was a brewery founder, among her other contributions in Greater Cincinnati.

The Amy Merrell Steps to Success Endowment was created in late 2015 by her sister, Elizabeth Ricci. As a Kappa Alpha Theta at Indiana University, Ricci learned about CASA (court-appointed special advocate) organizations like ProKids. Nationally, CASA is the partner philanthropy for the sorority.

ProKids volunteers work with family members, foster parents, social workers, school professionals, healthcare providers and others to advocate for the best interests of the children they serve. Working with ProKids staff, they help find safe, permanent and nurturing homes for the children.

“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,” Ricci said. “That makes a difference for our entire community.”

The endowment enables ProKids to serve even more children far into the future, said executive director Tracy Cook.

“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.”

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

ProKids board president Tom Cuni said stopping abuse and neglect “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,” he said. “We are grateful to Liz for this endowment.”

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