Seven hundred and forty-five pinwheels planted in honor of child abuse victims
Kyra Franchetti, a little girl from Manhasset, used to frequent Mary Jane Davies Green Park in Manhasset and Blumenfeld Park in Port Washington. Her mother, Jacqueline Franchetti recalls how much little Kyra enjoyed the sprinkler area at Blumenfeld Park, splashing and laughing in the water on hot summer days.
From April 1 to April 18, 745 pinwheels populated both parks to represent children who, like Kyra, were murdered by a parent during a child custody case, divorce or separation within the last five years and 725 New York children whose deaths have been kept hidden by Child Protective Services.
Kyra was only 28 months old when her life was tragically cut short by her father during an unsupervised and court-approved visit despite the numerous warnings and eyewitness accounts of abusive, threatening and concerning behavior. April 4 this year should have been her eighth birthday.
In her memory, and to prevent what happened to her daughter from happening to another child, Franchetti has become a child-safety activist. She works tirelessly to advocate for a set of three bills called “Kyra’s Law,” which is sponsored by State Sen. Anna Kaplan. The bills would better protect children from abusive parents by making child safety the top priority in a custody case, mandating judicial training in family violence and child abuse and stopping common practices that allows abusers to get child custody.
There can not be a more powerful statement than Pinwheels For Prevention In The Parks, as pinwheels, a sweet decoration loved by children, is the symbol for child abuse prevention. This event is for children by children, and high school student Shayna Blumenfeld, the Kyra’s Champions Youth Ambassador, was involved with the planning and staging of the pinwheels with the Town of North Hempstead. She even recruited her peers to help plant the pinwheels.
“It’s just so incredible to see how the community is supporting and getting behind our efforts in Kyra’s memory,” Franchetti said. “It can be hard to talk about child abuse. It can be hard to talk about violence. And this is a conversation starter. By doing something so simple by putting out pinwheels, we’re starting a conversation. The number of parents and the number of people I’ve talked to at the event that are having these conversations now at home because of this is just a true testament to the power of Kyra’s story. Violence thrives in silence. And we’re breaking the silence with this.”
These pinwheels, Franchetti added, are also a statement in the need for accountability, transparency and change.
“Right now we have six bills in Albany to protect children from abusive parents, one of which is called Kyra’s Law,” Franchetti said. “This helps raise awareness for the dire need for change now. It can be uncomfortable and people may not want to talk about family violence, but you don’t want to live it. I can tell you that right now. So having that conversation is truly so important and this helps the community do just that.”
Adding to the powerful statement that these pinwheels are, Franchetti, who has been at the parks every day since the pinwheels have been planted, has been seeing children run through them.
“Even when we were putting up the display, we saw a toddler run through it, which was so cute,” Franchetti said. “Yesterday there was a 2-year-old little girl from Manhasset who was interacting with the pinwheels. It’s so beautiful to see both young children and children of all ages and adults see the display and get involved in it. I love watching the children run through it. It is so cute and it makes a point about how often this happens. This could happen to someone you know and love unless changes are made. It makes the entire community get involved with this in such a beautiful way to honor the memories of those children taken far too soon.”
Standing by Franchetti and her team of advocates are officials with the Town of North Hempstead. Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey said the pinwheels were a fitting tribute to celebrate and honor Kyra’s life and legacy, and that she was proud to partner with Kyra’s Champions and Franchetti once again.
“Jacqueline Franchetti is an inspiration to moms everywhere and I am so proud that the town continues to partner with and support Kyra’s Champions,” said Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena. “The installation of these  blue pinwheels, each one symbolizing a child in New York who has fallen victim to child abuse in the recent past, is an inventive and eye-catching way to continue to bring more awareness to child abuse prevention. There’s no better way to honor the memory of Kyra Franchetti than for our state legislators to pass ‘Kyra’s Law’ and help better protect children throughout New York. I urge them to do so.”
Along with advocating for laws like “Kyra’s Law,” which has just passed unanimously in the Senate Judiciary Committee and advanced to the New York State Senate floor, Franchetti was also selected to sit on Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Forensic Custody Evaluations that came to a close earlier this year.
In New York State courts, according to the report from the commission delivered to Hochul, judges rely on forensic evaluations for some cases involving child custody and parenting time. But because there is no set rules on who may become an evaluator, how evaluators should conduct their evaluations and the incompetent and unethical approaches these evaluators have taken in cases, the commission—made up of parents, attorneys and other court actors—recommended multiple reforms.
“I have the choice every day where I can pull the covers over my head and cry and it would be very easy because I miss Kyra so much,” Franchetti said. “Or I can get up and tell her story and see to bringing about change. I’m very fortunate that people are listening and that people see the need for change and recognize that there’s huge, massive problems and that they’re fixable. Everything that happened in Kyra’s case was 100 percent preventable.”
To learn more about Kyra’s Champions and their advocacy, visit kyraschampions.org.