In 1994, Raydell Lacey’s life was forever changed when she tragically lost her daughter to violence. This heartbreak occurred in front of her daughter’s two young children, making the situation even more devastating.
Raydell was heartbroken, but over time she gathered the strength to tell her story to help other parents who lost children to violence. She hoped that sharing her story could provide a much-needed connection and support for other parents who were also suffering.
As a result, in 2012 Raydell started Not Before My Parents, an organization focused on improving the lives of those affected by violence. She began selling her NBMP hats and t-shirts and used the funds she raised to help cover basic needs and funeral expenses for parents whose children had died due to lethal assaults.
Three years ago, Raydell’s strength was again tested, when her 19-year-old grandson was killed by gun violence. She decided that she needed to do more. One day, while watching her son Erick Lacey’s intense focus during a chess game, Raydell came up with the idea of creating a chess club. She felt the strategic reasoning needed to play the game would teach kids to think before reacting to challenging situations, particularly those that could lead to a confrontation. With her son and his friends serving as instructors, Not Before My Parents established “Chess Moves Against Violence,” a chess club for kids in Englewood.
The chess club caught the attention of Chicago Police Sergeant, Janice Wilson. With Janice’s help, the chess club expanded to include members of the Chicago Police Department’s 7th District in Englewood. Now, every second Tuesday of the month, children, adults and police officers play chess together at the station. She can already see improvements in the relationships between the Englewood community and its police force.
Raydell’s organization Not Before My Parents has since expanded its programs beyond the chess club. It now offers a program called “Mental Illness is Real, Let’s Talk Mental Health”, led by mental health professionals, to educate the community on the importance of mental health. Not Before My Parents has also launched a program directed at kids and adults, called “Kick for Your Goals,” a soccer clinic that goes beyond the game, bringing awareness to childhood obesity and encouraging conversation among participants about healthy eating, their life aspirations, and how to achieve their goals.
For Raydell, her greatest satisfaction is seeing the children smile and focus on their future. She adds, “It’s not about my grandson or my daughter anymore because they are gone, but still in my heart. It’s all about these [other] parents who have lost their children… I don’t want them or the community to lose [anymore of] our children.”
The Community Impact Award is presented to an individual(s) who displays leadership and commitment to his or her community by making a positive, noticeable and significant impact on society.
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