Childhelp assistant, GCU alum's difficult experiences empower her to do good

Recent GCU graduate Paityn Reece works with Childhelp, one of GCU’s newest community partners. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

When Paityn Reece wrote an essay in the eighth grade, back home in Montana at the cusp of Glacier National Park, she didn’t know the role that essay would play in her life.

The prompt: Choose a charity. Write about it.

The recent Grand Canyon University graduate knew immediately what kind of charity she wanted to write about. She was adamant about putting her heart and soul into an essay about an organization that supports victims of child abuse, something an eighth grader shouldn't be familiar with.

But she was.

“The reason I’m so passionate about child abuse is because I was also abused as a child,” she said.

She wrote so well and so persuasively about the important work the charity does that her report was chosen as the winning essay for her grade, and her school donated money to that charity, Childhelp, which Reece discovered after doing an online search.

“I forgot about it, then all these years later, my freshman year here, I was applying for jobs through (GCU career platform) Career Connections. I saw one for Childhelp. I was like, ‘Where do I know that name from?’”

It dawned on her, “Oh my gosh, I wrote about that,” she said, thinking back to that eighth grade essay about the work that Childhelp does to help children who experience child abuse, like she did.

Reece (second from right) is an assistant to Childhelp founders Sara O'Meara (second from left) and Yvonne Fedderson (third from left). (Contributed photo)

“I submitted my resume, closed my computer and said a quick prayer. Then I opened it back up, and I already had an interview within a span of a few minutes.”

Reece shared that story about her eighth-grade essay with Childhelp in her interview.

“Their mouths just dropped,” Reece said of her interviewers.

She landed the job with the Phoenix-based national nonprofit, one of the University’s newest partners in a shared vision to better the community.

Reece assists the organization’s founders, Sara O’Meara and Yvonne Fedderson, who brought a light to Hollywood as actresses – they played the girlfriends of Ricky Nelson and David Nelson in the 1950s sitcom “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.” They now bring that light as the founders of Childhelp, one of the largest nonprofit child abuse prevention and treatment organizations in the United States.

“They work nonstop,” said Reece. “They’re 89 years old, and they just go, go, go , go, go. … They’ve been best friends for 70 years, and they’re just amazing ladies.

“ … They’re servants of God, honestly.”

She has seen firsthand how Childhelp’s burgeoning partnership with GCU has developed over the past three years.

Reece was in the audience in 2022 when O’Meara spoke to GCU’s Honors students about its plans to build a Childhelp Global Village near the University’s campus. And she was at the Childhelp charity event earlier this spring when University President Brian Mueller announced plans to develop an academic institute that will research vulnerable populations, like victims of child abuse, to find the best ways to help them.

Reece sees the beauty in that partnership – and in GCU, though GCU wasn’t her first choice when she was getting ready to set out for college.

Childhelp founder and former Hollywood actress Sara O’Meara (right) talks with freshman Ashlyn Janzen during a talk at GCU in 2022. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

She was intent on attending Washington State University and already had sent her first tuition payment.

“I had a roommate and everything, but GCU just kept calling me. … I didn’t’ want to be far from home. Then one day, I was like, ‘I’ll just listen to her (the university counselor’s) spiel about all the things on campus and everything you can do.

“I walked away from that conversation feeling amazed, to be honest. I said, ‘I don’t know why I feel like I want to go there.”

It was like God was pulling her here.

“I told my mom that night, I’m going to go to GCU.”

Reece arrived in the middle of a typical scorching July, never having been to Arizona or the campus, and landed in Canyon Hall, one of the University’s older living areas.

But she knew she was home.

“I just felt such peace about it, when God gives you that peace,” she said, knowing that she would be around likeminded people who wanted to serve others.

Reece, even before she left for college, felt an overwhelming sense of empathy for others. She was the first to offer those kindnesses that seem rare to find these days.

Like O’Meara and Fedderson at Childhelp, she brings the light. She’s always smiling and bright and positive, despite what Reece went through as a girl – experiences that led her to look for Childhelp when she was that eighth grader from Montana who needed to write an essay.

Reece has used those difficult experiences to empower her to do good.

My whole story has been just seeing how God uses all these broken parts of your life.

Paityn Reece, GCU alumna and Childhelp founders assistant

When she was a student, she volunteered with Changing Lives Outreach, a College of Humanities and Social Sciences program in which undergraduate psychology, social work, counseling and behavioral health science students provide support for the University’s behavioral health partners. Reece co-facilitated social/emotional learning groups in K12 schools near GCU.

She also added a recently introduced minor, short-term missions.

Each class is a lab, Reece said, and “sometimes we’ll walk outside of campus and go pray for people on the streets.”

She also spent her spring break in Nepal, serving in a local church.

“I loved the people there and their heart for the Lord,” Reece said. “ … I made so many connections with the people there, and it changed my view of evangelism and short-term missions. Our mission should be whatever God has placed in front of you – it should be part of our daily lives.”

Reece, who graduated a little more than a week ago, continues to work for the founders of Childhelp but also started her first post-graduation job as a behavior mentor at the Rite Path counseling clinic. She works with at-risk students at two residential schools, Canyon State Academy and Desert Lily Academy. And she plans to start graduate school at GCU later this year for clinical health counseling with an emphasis in child and adolescent disorders.

“My whole story has been just seeing how God uses all these broken parts of your life. He just has a plan for your life, and that’s, honestly, the most beautiful thing about everybody who goes through Childhelp and their story.”

Manager of Internal Communications Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.

Related content:

GCU News: Honors students learn of Childhelp's impact

GCU News: How GCU has embraced the most vulnerable populations

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