Erin Runnion is the Founding Director of The Joyful Child Foundation – In Memory of Samantha Runnion, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, for public benefit organization dedicated to uniting and uplifting our nation’s communities in the protection and wonderment of all children. Samantha Runnion was a beautiful, bright, joyful little girl with a passion for art. Samantha’s life was cut short as the youngest victim of the “summer of abductions” in July 2002. Erin is dedicated to ensuring Samantha’s tragic death continue to be a catalyst to engage others in our collective responsibility in protecting our nation’s children from sexual abuse and abduction. Honors include The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s 2003 Hope Award, A Certificate of Valor from The Department of Justice, People Magazine’s 2004 Heroes Among Us Award and Redbook Magazine’s 2005 Mothers and Shakers honor. Erin was additionally honored by People Magazine in the 2007 Heroes Among Us Awards as a founding member of The Surviving Parents Coalition. The Joyful Child Foundation’s comprehensive approach to preventing crimes against children propelled Erin to lobby support for the Adam Walsh Child Safety Act of 2006, the Combating Child Exploitation Act and join the board of the National Association to PROTECT Children to continue to improve legislation regarding child predators.
Prior to Samantha’s abduction, Erin was a supervising location accountant for Air BP, the jet-fuel division of BP (Beyond Petroleum), one of the ten largest companies in the world. Erin was a member of BP’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, a program that includes a mentor and outreach plan to recruit and advance people of diverse backgrounds.
Erin holds a bachelor’s degree from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts where she received a Presidential Academic Scholarship to study cultural and religious anthropology. In her third year at Hampshire College, Erin participated in an 80-hour training course in mediation and conflict resolution. She was so impressed by the techniques and philosophy of the training that she organized a two-day seminar on conflict resolution and co-taught a class on communication skills. After the success and interest generated from the seminar, she co-founded Hampshire’s Conflict Transformation and Education Project (CTEP). The program trained a team of mediators that includes staff, faculty and students to help resolve conflicts on campus and teach mediation and communication techniques to local schools.
As Founding Director of The Joyful Child Foundation, Erin has become a highly respected spokesperson, inspiring a national dialogue about how communities must engage to both protect and enrich the lives of our children. She spreads this message during her frequent media appearances, which include national programs such as NBC”s Today show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS’s The Early Show, Nancy Grace-Closing Arguments, Catherine Crier Live, CNN Headline News and Larry King Live. The Joyful Child launched its first initiative, the Samantha’s PRIDE Neighborhood Child Protection Program in California in January of 2004. In May of 2008 Erin trained the first group of PRIDE Facilitators outside of California and announced a partnership with radKIDS Personal Safety Empowerment Program. Today hundreds of Neighborhood PRIDE volunteers serve as a resource on child protection and actively watch children around schools and parks.
Erin resides in Orange County, California with her mother, Virginia Runnion, her husband and Joyful Child Co-Founder, Kenneth Donnelly and their three children, Paige, Conner and Rose. The Joyful Child Foundation has helped Erin transform her grief into compassionate action by honoring Samantha.
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