'Out of This World' Efforts of Mother of 93 Little Wanderers Honored

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This past May, the nation’s oldest non-profit child and family service agency honored a woman who has cared for 93 children at an event that was out of this world.

The Home For Little Wanderers held their annual Voices and Visions Gala at The Seaport World Trade Center on May 26th. During this year’s gala, the home bestowed the first annual Sabino Marinella Award to Grace and Frank Cyr. Over the passed 44 year Grace, who married Frank in 1984, has cared for 93 children, and is one of the Home’s longest serving foster parents. Also honored at the event was former Red Sox pitcher and 2004 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, Dennis Eckersley.

The Home For Little Wanderers’ Voices and Visions event is the organization’s signature fundraiser. Aside from its goal of reaching out to donors, Voices and Visions features artwork from many of the children who rely on the home’s services.

“The Home For Little Wanderers Voices and Visions event is an event that is geared towards highlighting the work that the children do throughout the year to help them express their feelings and their emotions through art and through word,” said Barbara Edelin, Event Coordinator for The Home For Little Wanderers.

Every year the artwork featured at the Voices and Visions event represents a different theme picked by the young artists. This year’s theme was “Outer Space and Beyond.” Much of the artwork on display was later auctioned off as part of the event.

“Every year [the kids] pick a theme, and they work on the project as a part of their therapy,” said Edelin. “These are children that have been either abandoned or abused in some cases, and so they need to be able to have a way to express themselves. So that’s why we call it voices, because they write, and visions, because they do the art in three dimensional pieces.”

This year’s theme, “Outer Space and Beyond”, featured four sections of artwork including science and technology, and aliens and astronauts. Last year’s event focused on landscapes of Massachusetts.

“Last year it was landscapes of Massachusetts where they talked throughout the year about what they understood what Massachusetts was known for,” said Edelin. “So sports, community, food, and politics. Those were the four areas. They drew pictures of Mayor Menino and Governor Patrick and other people. It was really wonderful.”

During this year’s event, The Home For Little Wanderers unveiled the first annual Sabino Marinella Award, named after the late Board Member for The Home For Little Wanderers and former CEO of Liberty Financial. This year’s award was given to Grace and Frank Cyr, who have helped care for nearly 100 children over almost half a century.

“I would like to say that it has been a pleasure to have all the children,” said Grace Cyr, who was choking back tears as she collected the award. “And I know for a fact that you [don’t] need to conceive them to love them.”

According to a biography written by her granddaughter and distributed by The Home For Little Wanderers, Grace and her first husband Gordon began working with the Home in 1966, caring for children as young as four days old. Gordon would pass away in 1980, and in 1984 Grace accepted Frank’s proposal for marriage under the condition that he accept their foster children too. Grace and Frank Cyr recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary.

“Before I was with Gracie I was born in a hospital, I was a preemie. I had to have surgery on my back because my lungs were not compressed. My body was developed a little bit faster then my lungs were,” said Ceriee Gilbert, who grew up with Grace as his foster mother. “So they had to obviously cut me open and compress my lungs so they could develop.”

Gilbert continued, “After that Gracie went to the hospital. It was around 6:30 in the morning. She went to the hospital and [the Department of Social Services] was there. They told her, ‘we have a young man who is seeking a mom.’ And she said, ‘well I’ll take Ceriee,’ and from that point on she’s been my mom ever since.”

Along with the Cyr family, The Home For Little Wanderers also took the opportunity to honor former Red Sox pitcher and 2004 Hall of Fame inductee, Dennis Eckersley. According to a pamphlet distributed by the Home, over the past five years Eckersley has helped raise awareness to Home’s mission, and has even allowed children to visit him at his NESN broadcast booth.

“To do what I do, you know, it’s nothing compared to [the Cyr family], the foster parents who had 90 kids they took in,” said Eckersley, who has two adopted children of his own. “So for me to come here and just really lend visibility to this is simple, compared to them.”

While a lot of the work Eckersley does for The Home For Little Wanderers has surrounded increasing awareness of their mission, he also has his own adopted children. Eckersley had this to say to any couple considering adoption:

“I think that if you can, please do,” Eckersley said. “I think it goes a long way. It makes you feel wonderful. And for me, taking for granted how I got here and the sport that I had growing up, I needed support when I was 25 years old, let alone when I was 10. So it’s a good thing to do, and if you can do it, do it.”

According to The Home For Little Wanderers website, The Home is the country’s oldest private, non-profit child and family service agency, parts of which date all the way back to 1799. This year’s Voices and Visions Gala drew a crowd of nearly 1,000 people who helped raise money to ensure that the Home can continue providing services to children throughout the Boston area.

“You have foster care programs, you have the art and education programs, you have individual houses that work with children that maybe need some special type of support,” said John Hailer, Chairman of The Board of Directors for The Home For Little Wanderers, and President and Chief Executive Officer of Natixis Global Asset Management. “It’s one of the largest children’s charities in the United States.”

For more information about The Home For Little Wanderers or to make a contribution visit, http://www.thehome.org/

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