Foster children in Palm Beach County matter. That’s the mantra that drives Kathy Leone to advocate, support and push for the protection and survival of the children who depend on it.
“It is incumbent on all of us, as residents of PBC, to care for these children, many of whom have no one else,” Leone said.
The 60-year-old, of Palm Beach, spends the bulk of her time building consensus and awareness on the issues that negatively impact children in foster care, finding solutions and raising money to fund them.
StandUp For Kids, a nonprofit whose goal is to empower homeless and at-risk youth toward lifelong personal growth, recently nominated Leone for Woman Volunteer of the Year. While working tirelessly to improve child welfare, she broke foster care barriers by creating a visitation center and working with all partners to create a successful system of care in the county.
“I’m proud of the role I’ve played to encourage a renewed spirit of collaboration and cooperation among the key stakeholders who work in the foster care system,” Leone said. “Also, I have worked hard to create awareness of the need to join the effort within our local community.”
Her hope is to continue to increase the number involved in organizations such as the guardian ad litem program, mentoring and tutoring, donating to organizations like Speak Up for Kids, Vita Nova and the Children’s Home Society.
“But just as important would be to meet some of the children, look in their eyes, talk to them and ask them, when appropriate, what they want and need,” Leone said. “Most times, the answer will surprise you.”
Leone also stresses the importance of longevity in volunteering for kids.
Who is your hero?
My heroes are those who inspire me to be a better human being, and I have had many heroes throughout my life; currently I have three close friends fighting late-stage cancer. Their courage and strength coupled with their ability to be joyful and present each moment of the day is incredibly inspiring to me. Also, many of the foster children I have met inspire me as well. Their resiliency and perseverance, in spite of the difficult hand they have been dealt, always lifts my spirits and strengthens me to forge ahead.
What is your favorite movie?
I am a sucker for sappy Christmas movies ... watching any and all of them makes me happy.
What are your hobbies?
Anything that involves being outdoors: biking, hiking, downhill skiing, snowmobiling. (I love snow!)
What do you do to get away or take a break?
I love to travel together as a family with my husband and four sons. On a daily basis, taking a break involves going to Mass usually at St. Ann’s in West Palm Beach, taking time to pray or reading Scripture.
If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?
Pope John Paul, Mother Teresa and Grandfather Dixon, who passed away before I was born.
What is the best advice you ever received?
I read a quote by Harry Truman which really spoke to me as I was beginning to embark on this reform effort: “There is no limit to what can be achieved, when no one cares who gets the credit.”
What event in history would you have liked to have witnessed?
My dad was a pilot in World War II and flew numerous dangerous missions “over the hump” in the Far East. It might sound crazy to some, but I would have liked to have “been there” for that. He was an extraordinarily brave and amazing human being.
What is your favorite childhood memory?
There are many, but I suppose one of my favorites is this: For years, my father would take my brother, sister and me skiing every weekend in the winter, and after a full day of skiing, cold and tired, we would always stop on the way home for pizza and hot chocolate at the same place, Pizza Villa. That warm, cozy feeling has stuck with me all these years, and I feel blessed and fortunate to have had a childhood with so many happy memories. In a way, it’s why I am so determined to work to ensure all children also have the opportunity to develop precious childhood memories with a family, whether it be their own or an adopted one, rather than one that is filled with fear, neglect and trauma.