The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Self-esteem project brought to campus


Jackie and Warren Hance were thrust in the national spotlight after their three daughters were tragically killed in July 2009 in a wrong-way automobile accident on the Taconic State Parkway that became national news.

Emma, Allyson and Kate Hance, aged 8, 7 and 5 respectively, died after their aunt, who authorities later said was drunk on vodka and high on marijuana, drove more than a mile the wrong way on the Taconic State Parkway before getting in a head-on collision that left eight dead, and the Hance family shattered.

As part of their efforts to move on from the tragedy, they embraced the memory of their daughters by establishing the Hance Family Foundation in September of that year, and a program called “Beautiful Me” that promoted self-esteem in children.

Four thousand inspired young girls later, the foundation has begun tailoring its message to an older crowd, which is what brought them to St. John’s on Oct. 1 to work with female campus ministry students on issues like body image and self-esteem. So how and why did they choose St. John’s?

The daughter of Dr. Pamela Shea-Byrnes, vice president for University ministry and University events, was one of those 4,000 young girls to participate in “Beautiful Me.” Shea-Byrnes left with one thing in mind. “I’ve got to get ‘Beautiful Me’ to St. John’s,” she said.

The about 40 campus ministry students were the first participants in the college version of “Beautiful Me,” and participants walked away impressed.

“I thought it was an inspiring program,” said Kelly Sweeney, a senior. “I was able to see that most girls deal with self-esteem issues, which is a huge problem.”

Kate Tuffy, one of the program’s education directors and a friend of the Hances, said Warren Hance came up with the idea of establishing a foundation just two days after the deaths of Kate, Emma and Allyson, and started with the girls’ elementary school classmates. The program is designed to include an aspect of all three girls’ personalities.

“I would ask Jackie things like, ‘how would Kate respond to auditioning a play where she didn’t think she would get the lead?” Tuffy said in describing the influence of the girls on “Beautiful Me”.

The spirit of the three girls is very much alive in the program. It began with a slide show of photos of the girls, leaving Warren Hance, who introduced the program, wiping away tears, before the women in attendance broke into groups to talk about women’s issues.

The staff and volunteers at “Beautiful Me” will be back at St. John’s on Oct. 16, this time to talk to sorority sisters and pledges about the same themes that they’ve talked about with young girls, high school students and campus ministry members.

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About the Contributor
Michael E. Cunniff, Editor-in-Chief
I'm Mike Cunniff, a junior journalism major and the sports editor here at the Torch. When I was a little kid, I decided I wanted to be a sports announcer when I grew up. I used to turn down the volume while my beloved Patriots played and do my best Greg Gumbel impression as Drew Bledsoe fired pass after pass into the waiting arms of opposing cornerbacks. That was my dream until I was about 14, when I realized that I had neither the dapper looks or silky baritone voice to warrant plastering my face all over television (and billboards, and magazine covers. Dare to dream, right?). I realized, when I wasn't plagiarizing Sparknotes when writing English essays (kidding, mostly) that I actually enjoyed writing, and decided that writing about sports suited me better than talking about them. My favorite sports to watch/cover are basketball and soccer. I actually used to be a halfway decent shooting guard back in the day, before I did my knee in the offseason before senior year. I still love all four Boston teams (the Revs don't count), as well as Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League (I talk about them too much). I'm probably better than you at FIFA 12. Outside of sports and journalism, I like The Office, Bagels 'N' Cream, road trips and karaoke. __________ I like to joke with Mike that he’d react the same way to the Zombie apocalypse as he would in covering a major news break on campus — which is to say he wouldn’t really react in any particular way at all. Nothing seems to phase him. Anything — ANYTHING — could happen on campus, and I am confident that Mike would lead the Torch in the best possible reportage for that story. He has already demonstrated that ability in his superb coverage of the Sports section, and I know that ability would translate in a much larger role next year. -Bill San Antonio Editor-in-Chief, Emeritus

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