Here you'll find links to important events that Zachary has had a hand in. I'm proud to share each of these with you. Zachary continues to make an impact, even after so many years. 

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Chrissy McLaughlin returns home to Northeast Pennsylvania on Saturday to present an award close to her heart at Marley’s Mission’s seventh annual Blue Ribbon Gala

The Remembering Zachary Award, which recognizes people who seek to raise awareness about child abuse, this year honors local police officers Scott Benzeleski, Eric Lindsay, Anthony Shields and Daniel Schaufler while also memorializing McLaughlin’s 14-month-old son, Zachary, who was murdered in 2005. All of this year’s recipients volunteered at the Hands and Hooves Summer Camp at Marley’s Mission, a nonprofit that provides free equine-assisted psychotherapy to children who have experienced trauma. 

“The officers didn’t reveal who they were to anybody (at camp),” said McLaughlin, who received the first award in 2011 and has presented it to others each year since. “They were there to help out as counselors, and they connected with the kids throughout the week.”

McLaughlin described it as a “very powerful moment” at the end of the week when the police officers’ shared their profession with the children.

“Everyone’s perspective is different of a police officer, especially kids who are the victims of trauma,” McLaughlin said. “It was really impactful for the kids to see these police officers just as human beings.”

McLaughlin, also the gala’s honorary chairperson, has deep ties to Marley’s Mission. She met its founder, April Kemp, through attorney Gene Talerico, who prosecuted McLaughlin’s son’s murderer. Kemp’s daughter also was a victim of trauma, and the two women connected “mom-to-mom” over their shared tragedies. They supported one another as they sought to create positive change, especially when McLaughlin worked for several years to have the state pass Zachary’s Law, which strengthened the sentencing for people convicted of the third-degree murder of a child.

“Gene, April and I worked on it together. ... I became the voice of the law, as Zachary’s mom,” McLaughlin said. “When (Kemp) started Marley’s Mission, I wanted to do what I could to help.”

While commemorating Child Abuse Prevention Month every April, McLaughlin incorporates Marley’s Mission into activities at the Virginia elementary school where she teaches. They include decorating trees with blue ribbons and holding a small fundraiser for the organization.

And Marley’s Mission further showed its support of McLaughlin’s son by dedicating Zachary’s Way, an area with seating for natural reflection, at the mission’s Newton Twp. campus.

“April does a lot to keep Zachary’s spirit alive,” McLaughlin said. “She tries to do things to help me celebrate his life.”

In addition to recognizing the long-standing devotion of child advocates, Marley’s Mission’s annual gala provides entertainment while raising money for the nonprofit. The gala, set for 6 p.m. at Hilton Scranton and Conference Center, features entertainment by Daddy-O and the Sax Maniax with a special guest, 13-year-old singer Olivia Kay. Tickets are $125.

McLaughlin stressed the importance of the yearly gala, as it raises the money Marley’s Mission needs to continue to provide direct support to child-abuse survivors at no cost to families.

“No kid is ever charged to go to the mission,” she said. “It’s free for everybody, always, so all the money that they raise goes directly into the mission to help make that possible.”

Also in Abington Journal-


The co-chairwomen of Marley’s Mission’s seventh annual Blue Ribbon Gala, Val Langan, Maggie Nasser and Tami Prall-Nasser, are putting together a fabulous list of activities for the Saturday, Feb. 18, event. Themed “March Forth: Find Your True North!” the black-tie optional affair will feature entertainment by Daddy-O and the Sax Maniacs with special guest, 13-year-old Edmond, Oklahoma, singing sensation,Olivia Kay

Honorary Co-Chairwoman Chrissy Marie McLaughlin is a mother, child advocate and the teacher responsible for the passage of Pennsylvania’s Zachary’s Law, which increased mandatory minimum sentencing for third- degree murder of a child younger than 13.

WNEP’s Stacy Lange will emcee the gala at the Hilton Scranton and Conference Center.

“For nearly seven years, Marley’s Mission has continued to build hope for children who have experienced trauma — including emotional, sexual and physical trauma, and secondary post-traumatic stress disorder. The Blue Ribbon Gala raises the funds needed to provide care free of charge to children and we are forever grateful to the Gala Chairs, committee, attendees and sponsors for their unwavering support,” attorney Gene Talerico Marley’s Mission board president, said in a release.

Proceeds support the annual operations of Marley’s Mission, a nonprofit organization based in Newton Twp. that provides equine-based therapy at no cost to children and their families who have experienced trauma.

Marley’s Mission has treated more than 600 children in an 11-county area, including Lackawanna, Luzerne, Pike, Wayne, Susquehanna, Monroe, Carbon, Wyoming, Lehigh, Philadelphia and York, since opening its doors in 2010.

Article- Scranton Times: Mom's Persistence Leads to Change in Sentencing Guidelines

The determination of a devoted mother led to tougher sentences for those convicted of murdering children.


On Thursday, the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing unanimously added a two-year sentence enhancement to sentencing guidelines for third-degree murder of children.

The average sentence ranges from seven years to the statutory maximum of 20 years, said First Assistant District Attorney Gene Talerico. The enhancement grants judges the option of adding two more years. 

"In terms of the enhancement itself, it's a first step toward equalizing the disparity that exits in Pennsylvania in sentencing as it relates to those who murder children in Pennsylvania," Mr. Talerico said.

He attributes the push for stronger guidelines to Christine McLaughlin's drive.

Mrs. McLaughlin lost her 14-month-old son, Zachary Scott, in 2005, after baby sitter Justin Kinne punched the child in the stomach, sending him careening into a wood-framed glass coffee table.

Mr. Kinne did not tell anyone what he did and applied ice to a flowering bruise on Zachary's head.

Over the next few days, the toddler went from being active to sluggish to unresponsive, police said. He died of blunt force trauma to his head and abdomen within 30 minutes of being admitted at then Community Medical Center in Scranton.

Mr. Kinne pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, and was sentenced in 2006 to 15 to 40 years in prison.

Though her son's killer received a stiff sentence, Mrs. McLaughlin was troubled to learn their was no mandatory minimum for third-degree murder of a child. Her mission to change that began roughly three years ago when she reached out to former state Rep. Kevin Murphy to help champion a bill to create a mandatory minimum of 13 years. With Mr. Murphy's help and with the support of the community, the bill unanimously passed the House Judiciary Committee in October 2011 sending it to the floor for a general vote in January 2012. The bill passed the House 192-to-1. Rep. Greg Vitali, D-166, Havertown was the lone dissenter, but his nay "electrified" the room, Mrs. McLaughlin said.

The real roadblock came in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the next step to send the proposed legislation to the Senate floor for a vote. Committee Chairman Sen. Stewart Greenleaf R-12, Willow Grove, was adamant about eliminating the wording "mandatory minimum" before sending it for a general vote. She was given a choice - reword it to "enhancement" from "mandatory minimum" or it does not reach the floor.

"Mandatory can be a two-edged sword," Mr. Greenleaf said Friday.

A mandatory minimum sentence would not necessarily deal with the case in point and it would take the discretion out of the judge's hands for future cases, he said.

"I trust the judges in making the decisions in the courtroom," he said.

Mrs. McLaughlin took the compromise and the bill passed the Senate 37 to 12 in October.

When the sentencing commission voted Thursday to accept the two-year enhancement she felt "surreal."

"It makes me a proud mom," she said.

The law takes effect on July 5, something Mr. Talerico attributes to a mother's undying love.

"As it relates to how this bill got to be, the fact its had success and has been pushed forward in memory of such an amazing little boy and had the success that it had because of the efforts of this mom makes me believe more firmly in what I have believed in for many years," Mr. Talerico said. "Never ever underestimate the power of a mother."


HARRISBURG - The murder of a 14-month-old child named Zachary provided the catalyst for House approval of a bill Tuesday to toughen penalties for child murder convictions.

The measure sponsored by Rep. Kevin Murphy, D-113, Scranton, would require that an individual convicted of third-degree murder of a child under age 13 must be sentenced to no less than 13 years in prison.

The bill sets 13 years as the mandatory minimum sentence for judges to impose. Under current state law, there is no mandatory minimum for third-degree murder. The measure, approved 192-1, goes to the Senate.

Mr. Murphy sponsored the legislation after Christine McLaughlin, a former Lackawanna County resident, asked him how she could get justice for the death of Zachary at the hands of a child abuser in 2005.

"His (Zachary's) life was violently taken at the hands of an adult who was entrusted to protect and care for Zachary," Mr. Murphy said on the House floor. "This sends a message that there will be a very severe price for murder of a child."

He expressed concern that without a mandatory minimum sentence in law, a person convicted of a sexual crime could serve a longer sentence than someone convicted of third-degree murder.

Both Ms. McLaughlin and Gene Talerico, an assistant Lackawanna County district attorney, were on the House floor as the bill was briefly debated.

The lone "no" vote came from Rep. Greg Vitali, D-166, Havertown. Mr. Vitali said a mandatory minimum sentence would tie the hands of judges who want to determine justice by the circumstances of the individual case. The bill cures a problem with existing law and gives judges the tools to sentence properly, said House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-33, Allegheny County.

The Remembering Zachary {Photography} Project was started by a dear friend, Kim. She asked her photographer friends to donate their services in honor of Zachary. It was the perfect idea because Kim knows just how much pictures mean to me. My most cherished items are my pictures. They capture a moment in your life that your memory can't always hold onto. Take a look at the Remembering Zachary {Photography} Project to see some of the special things that were done in memory of Zach.


My dear friend Colleen is running 10 races for Zachary's 10th birthday. She's running 5, 5ks and 5 marathons! She's already a few months and many races into her special project. You can follow along with her journey by reading her blog. It's inspiring. My daughter and I have even started running and we have ran 2 races with her. We're looking forward to more in the future. Her blog is called "10 Running Feet"

Marley's Mission has grown to become part of our family. They weave Zachary's memory into their foundation. A very special award given at their annual Gala holds his name, a section of their farm is named in his memory and they help me remember him every chance they get. For so many reasons I will always be grateful to them. Because they love Zachary and because they work selflessly to improve the lives of children, I will always support them in any way I know how.


Timmy from Camera for a Cure collected items for the Jared Box Project. The Jared boxes were then donated to a local hospital. These fun filled boxes are given to children who are chronically ill in the hospital. Timmy does so many wonderful things for others. His Remembering Zachary Project was featured in his local paper. Thank you Timmy!