Kyra’s Rally for Change sparks support for child protection legislation

Kyra’s Rally for Change sparks support for child protection legislation
Jacqueline Franchetti speaks to a crowd on lawn of the Parent Resource Center during Kyra's Rally for Change. (Photo by Brandon Duffy)

Tuesday was “a very hard day” for Jacqueline Franchetti, she said — it marked five years since her daughter Kyra’s murder.

On July 27, 2016, 2-year-old Kyra’s father shot her twice in the back while she was sleeping at his Fairfax, Virginia home on an unsupervised, court-sanctioned visit. He then set the house on fire and shot himself to death.

In the years since the killing, Franchetti, a lifelong Manhasset resident, has led a fight to reform the New York justice system that let her daughter slip through the cracks. Hundreds of people showed up in Port Washington to support her cause on Tuesday night at Kyra’s Rally for Change — the anniversary of the tragedy that changed her life.

To see so many people from our community, from New York State, from even around the country who came to this event for Kyra because they want to see change become a reality was just a beautiful, beautiful moment for me,” Franchetti said. “I’m eternally grateful for everyone’s support.”

The event marked the latest chapter in Franchetti’s mission to advocate for considerations of child safety in family court proceedings.

After Kyra was killed, Franchetti founded both Kyra’s Champions and the Kyra Franchetti Foundation, whose mission is to protect children in custody cases from being court-ordered into the home of an abusive parent. 

Earlier this year, for Kyra’s birthday during National Child Abuse Prevention Month, more than 700 pinwheels were placed in the Mary Jane Davies Green in Manhasset and Blumenfeld Family Park in Port Washington, each one signifying a child lost because of lapses in family court proceedings.

Tuesday’s rally filled the lawn of the Parent Resource Center lawn on Main Street with a limbo competition, a motorcycle display and a platform for local and state officials to voice their concerns and demand change to the state’s family court system.

Local and state lawmakers shared the stage to gin up support for legislation inspired by Kyra with the hopes that it will get passed when the state Legislature’s session starts in January. 

“Impactful movements come from a grassroots level,” said North Hempstead Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey (D-Great Neck), who appeared alongside Councilwoman Mariann Dalimonte (D-Port Washington).

Franchetti’s efforts have led to progress, such as when state Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) introduced a bill titled “Kyra’s Law” and when Gov. Andrew Cuomo created a Blue Ribbon Commission exploring the role of forensic evaluators in child custody cases. 

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Long Beach Democrat who is running for Nassau County District Attorney, said it’s hard to imagine fighting for a common sense law.

“I wish Albany operated through logic and common sense on its own, but it doesn’t work that way,” Kaminsky said. “Can you imagine that we have to fight for a law saying that the health and safety of a child have to be prioritized and considered? But that’s where our law is right now. To make change in Albany it comes from the ground up, from not taking it anymore. Today we need to let it ring forth that change is necessary and change should come, and if we can’t do that for our children then what other cause is worthwhile to fight for.”

The rally saw students from Bach to Rock Port Washington — a music school that Kyra attended — perform “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten and “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus. Also speaking at the event were Keith Scott of The Safe Center LI, and the Long Island chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA). 

Also present at the rally were Sandrine Gold of Language Anywhere providing pinwheels, the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office for Operation Safe Child ID Cards, Moms Demand Action and Mel’s Ice Cream. Kids entertainment was led by Lynda Quinn. Religious remarks were made by Rabbi Jodie Siff of the Reconstructionist Synagogue of North Shore and Reverend Jimmy Only of Manhasset Congregational Church.

Franchetti said that there are no plans for more events at the end of the year, but that could change depending on guidance related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless, Franchetti said she was thankful for the support she saw and received Tuesday evening. 

“I really wanted something that was inspirational and showed the change that Kyra is creating in New York and around the country,” Franchetti said in an interview Wednesday. “There’s a lot going on in Albany right now and we need to make sure that these bills are on the radar so they see how much support it has and get them ready to be passed.”

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