What jumps right out at you when you hear Catherine Goodwillie’s voice on the phone is her warmth, sweetness and compassion. This gentle brave heart has shared her story about being a child sexual abuse survivor, and she has turned her personal experience into positive action for abused kids.
Catherine – who grew up in Kentucky - met her husband, Andrew, in their sophomore year at Miami of Ohio University. When Andrew lost his father, they moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan to be with his mom. Shortly thereafter, Andrew got a job in Houston, Texas. Three years later, as Catherine puts it: “They escaped to Denver.”
With her first-hand knowledge, Catherine is known as one of our most effective advocates for kids as well as a master connector and fundraiser for children’s causes like “Invest in Kids” – designed to improve the health and well-being of Colorado’s children. Two years ago, she founded her own nonprofit, SAFE (Sexual Abuse Forever Ending).
Catherine Goodwillie is a community leader who has made advocating for those who struggle and need a voice against child sexual abuse her life’s work. Both Catherine and her brother are survivors themselves, and Catherine’s passion and lifetime commitment have become to prevent and intervene immediately. She is deeply involved in her own family life and is a dependable, kind-hearted mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend.
Catherine believes children deserve the right to survive, thrive, develop, and be kept safe from violence, abuse, and any kind of exploitation. With the thousands of hours she has given to various charities to protect at-risk children, Catherine Goodwillie just selflessly does what needs to be done. “If you see something, do something…say something. You might be saving a child.”
We stand together with Catherine to fight Child Sexual Abuse.
Catherine, you have been involved with many child abuse organizations, can you mention a few? Early on I worked with the Kempe Center; then I worked at MHCD (Mental Health Center of Denver). I went on to work in the “risk analysis” field for 4 years, and lived in Barcelona, Spain for 2 months in 2004. When I got back from Spain, I was ready to donate about 20 hours a week doing volunteer work for a nonprofit. I met Jennifer Atler who was the Executive Director for “Invest in Kids,” and Lisa Hill who is now the Executive Director. I went to work for them as a staff member; and have been a board member and volunteer since then. Now, Dean Prina, Lindsey Gutterman and I have been involved in planning 6 out of their 8 galas. I helped co-found a group for Invest in Kids: TWINKs (Today’s Women Investing In Kids) for woman out of the workforce, stay-at-home moms interested in working and meeting once a month to talk about how to better the mission of Invest in Kids. We also meet 8 months out of the year –planning the gala, acquiring auction items, etc. And then there is SAFE (Sexual Abuse Forever Ending) which I founded two years ago. We became a 501 C-3 in August 2014. I’ve been very involved with that. 12 years ago, my husband, Andrew, started an organization: “Trips for Kids” helping disadvantaged kids… providing them with bikes, etc., so we both stay active with the nonprofits we founded.
What event has been your favorite to help plan? The “100,000 Rays of Hope” Invest in Kids gala.
Many celebrities are coming out with their own story of abuse as a child. Have you met and worked with any? An organization I’ve worked with “Darkness to Light” in Charleston, South Carolina has a program called “Stewards of Children” which is a child sexual abuse prevention program that SAFE has adopted. Serendipitously there is a gentleman who is involved with them by the name of Brad Simpson (he lives in LA & Australia) who is also a survivor. Two of his children Cody Simpson and Alli Simpson are known performers, and have been involved with the Disney network and Nickelodeon. Alli, a singer, grew up on Disney and hosts her own Disney radio show, and Coty Simpson is a singer/actor who was on “Dancing with the Stars” and also has been the opening act for Justin Bieber. Brad and his kids are involved with us in a campaign called “#5for1” which represents the 1 out of 5 children that have been sexual abused by the age of 18. Together, all of us are planning to hold a concert in November to raise funds for SAFE.
As they ask in Vanity Fair - What is your current state of mind – where are you in life right now? I feel extremely fortunate right now. I look at what I had to go through with SA and mental health, and I think about all the amazing support and opportunities afforded me. I’ve worked really hard, have three amazing children, a husband who loves me more than anything, and I feel the same about him.… I feel very blessed and impassioned to make a difference in how we can prevent sexual abuse, and I’m very inspired to do so. Life is wonderful!
What do you consider your greatest achievement so far? My work with Invest in Kids and SAFE. I have learned so much with the people I have had the chance to work with at Invest in Kids. Just have had great opportunities to meet and work with many amazing people in my work with nonprofits.
What other fundraising events do you have coming up? We are planning some type of concert and perhaps a dinner at like an art gallery for my organization SAFE.
What word describes you best? Empathic.
How would others to describe you? Passionate & Determined.
What was your first job – as a teen? I babysat and worked at the GAP.
I ask most of my married folks this – “What do you think is the secret to wedded bliss?” Not being afraid to tell one another the truth… communication is everything!
How do we instill the right values in our children – and grandchildren? I think it’s two-fold: Talk to them constantly about what’s important in life, and what it means to be good to other people. Be honest about life in an age-appropriate way. Two: Show them through your own doings and teachings what the right behavior should be, and what’s kind, honest and ethical… just be a good role model!
Who do you consider your main mentor in life? My mom has been a huge mentor for me teaching me kindness and empathy; my father’s humor taught me a lot, and both taught me how to treat people with kindness.
What are your favorite “words of wisdom? “Everybody’s got something…” Trauma happens everywhere. In challenges with mental health or sexual abuse issues; no one wants to talk about it - people are afraid. I am convinced that everyone experiences some kind of trauma in their life. We are united in that way.
What are some of your other hobbies or interests? Aside from my kids and husband – I love running, yoga, and music… going to concerts.
If you could go anywhere and do anything right now – where and what would it be? We are talking about taking a trip to Europe with our kids next year, and with my mom too. We are very excited! I lived in Barcelona for two months, so we are talking about going to Spain, the South of France…. and Italy. The kids love Italian food – so they think they should go there!
What do you see yourself doing 10 years from now? I want to continue working on prevention of sexual abuse by telling my story and that of others who have experience the same thing. It’s giving a voice to the voiceless child.
What are some gifts you have that money can’t buy? Having my children is the best thing I’ve ever done, and having a strong marriage, humor – and lots of friendships…. Being honest about what’s happened to you and that life isn’t always easy is a common bond. There is such a community of people that have gone through the same thing, and find comfort and love just sharing with one another. People are amazing - those are gifts!
Is there anything you wish you'd done differently so far? I think that when you get in your 40’s, you realize the “stuff” around you doesn’t matter that much. At this point, you realize that material things, trying to keep up with the crowd, and caring too much what others think just isn’t that important.
What would you like your legacy to be? / What would you most like to be remembered for? That I was able to start the conversion and talk openly and honestly about sexual abuse, and let people know they were not alone.