By Patti Samar
In the darkness of a November night in 2010, a terrible, traumatic and tragic event changed Mara McCalmon’s life forever.
And though the ordeal could have left McCalmon a permanently broken woman, she instead rose like a Phoenix from the burning ashes of her life, and decided to help others.
In 2016, McCalmon established the nonprofit, P.S. You’re My Hero, in memory of her late husband, Paul Skinner, who was brutally murdered – by their daughter and two of her friends – during a home invasion in 2010. McCalmon established the charitable organization for the purpose of raising funds to cover the cost of providing goods and services to benefit victims of crime.
To achieve her goals, McCalmon works directly with the St. Clair County Victim’s Rights office, helping victims navigate the difficult steps they face after surviving a life-altering crime.
For her personal resilience and her dedication to and passion for victims of crime, McCalmon has been named the Blue Water Woman Victim’s Rights Advocate of the Year. She was nominated by Sue Rutkofske.
“I came from a world that never saw the inside of a courtroom,” McCalmon said of her very normal life prior to surviving the ordeal that ended her husband’s life. “This whole thing was so foreign to me.”
McCalmon – who remarried in 2014 – said she met her first husband, Paul, when they were young. Both grew up in the suburbs of metropolitan Detroit and moved to Yale, Michigan, in 1992 when McCalmon accepted a teaching position with the Yale Public Schools.
“We wanted to live in a small town and raise our family,” she said. That family grew to include two sons and two daughters, all of whom are now grown. Three of her children are very successful, having achieved advanced degrees in higher education and are high achievers in their careers.
The youngest, Tia, now 25, is in prison, likely for the rest of her life.
P.S. You’re My Hero came about after McCalmon, who was also gravely injured during the attack on her family, had reached a personal turning point following the completion of numerous jury trials for those who attacked her family, and she was ready to do something positive with her renewed energy.
“When the trials were over, all I kept thinking was, ‘It cannot end like this,” she said. “I said, ‘I think it’s time to shift this whole story’s focus to something positive…I’m so sick of this story being about (the perpetrators). It’s time to do something to benefit others, in Dad’s name.’”
McCalmon noted that from day one she has received an exceptional amount of support from family, close friends, acquaintances, the community as a whole and from everyone at the courthouse who sat with her through numerous trials.
In addition to personal support, because she had a job with health insurance, most all of her medical and emotional needs were taken care of, and so she did not have to deal with additional financial stress.
But she knew that was not the case for other victims of crime.
“I had a super strong support system, but what about the people who don’t? I thought about all of the people who don’t have those resources,” she said. “Victims have to pay for their counseling and their medications,” among other expenses, associated with being the victim of crime.
P.S. You’re My Hero, a registered 501c3 nonprofit, now helps the victims of crime with those expenses.
“We’ve been able to pay for so many counseling sessions, and funerals,” she said. The nonprofit also paid for a therapy dog to be available in the courthouse for crime victims.
P.S. You’re My Hero was launched with money McCalmon received during a fundraising event sponsored by the Community Foundation of St. Clair County.
The 2016 100 Women Who Care event provided McCalmon with a $10,000 grant that allowed her to kick off her nonprofit.
To further sustain itself, the organization conducts an annual 5K run/2-mile walk every November on the anniversary of the tragic event.
“P.S. You’re My Hero puts the focus on the people who got yanked into this world of being a victim of crime,” said McCalmon. “Because I went through that, I understand it from the ground level, and I knew what would be helpful.
“I do something like this because I can. I can make it a mission to help other people.”