“A calling is not some carefully crafted plan. It’s what’s left when the plan goes horribly wrong. It is the thing you can’t not do.” Jeff Goins
1960s – Athens, Alabama: Susie Scott hated her childhood. She grew up on a farm in rural Morgan County, Alabama, and her father wasn’t around much. Her mother was bipolar and a drug addict who kept a pistol beside her bed and when feeling suicidal, threatened to shoot herself or her young daughter.
One of Susie’s earliest memories was being molested by her grandfather, a serial pedophile. He would take her into the woods in his old truck and rape her. “When she was 8, he threatened her, ‘Don’t you ever tell your mother. If she finds out, she will blame you and kill you.” Later, when Susie’s mother caught him molesting her 10-year-old, as predicted, she blamed her daughter.
Scared, conflicted and confused, Susie promised God if he would save her from her horrific home life, she would help rescue other children. The Department of Human Resources got involved when a friend’s mother became concerned about 12-year-old Susie’s bruises. The state placed Susie in a foster home. For the first time in her life, she felt safe.
Susie spent time in two foster care homes and a group home before dropping out of East Limestone High School and running away at 15. She lied about her age and got a job as a PBX operator in Athens. A photographer friend, impressed with her good looks, told her she could be a model. He took pictures and sent them to department stores. Soon, she left her $3.25 an hour job and made $100 a day modeling.
The friend convinced Susie she could be a Playboy magazine centerfold. She laughed, but longing to be somebody, and needing the money, she stripped while he snapped. She jumped at the opportunity when offered a chance to be in the magazine. She was just 17 the first time she posed for Playboy. A year later in May, Susie Scott was Playboy’s Playmate of the Month and the magazine’s centerfold.
Later that year, she moved into Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. The money, the lavish lifestyle and celebrity status were exciting to an abused young girl from rural Alabama. The playmates became the family Susie never had, and cocaine became her drug of choice. Later, when 57-year-old Hefner drugged and raped her, it brought back horrible memories of her grandfather. She was ashamed and hurt.
Once again, Susie promised God that if he would get her out of the mess she had made of her life, she would help save children. She eventually left the Playboy mansion, kicked her cocaine habit and got her life straight. In 1998, she married Joe Krabacher, an attorney in Aspen, Colorado. They started going to church, and she opened an antique store. After seeing a church program about the plight of starving children in third-world countries her heart was touched, and she remembered her promise to God. She shared this with Joe, and he was all in.
Susie figured she would write a check to sponsor a few children through an international program at church. But in 1994, she traveled to Haiti and was shocked by what she saw. After a day of seeing abandoned, disabled and starving children, 31-year-old Susie found her calling in the slums of Haiti.
A few months later, she closed her antique store and made another trip to Haiti. Susie and Joe started HaitiChildren, a foundation to provide shelter, food, education and healthcare for the poorest children in a country where 10% die before age 4. Initially, Susie raised $1,000 to feed 100 children for a month. Then she went back to Colorado and told the story of the Haitian children.
Almost three decades later, HaitiChildren has saved thousands of children. The ministry includes two schools attended by more than 1,000 children, mobile medical clinics that treat more than 10,000 children annually and a feeding program that provides 25,000 meals each month.
With no biological children of her own, ‘Mama Susie’s’ family is the 120 orphans who live in three dormitories on an 18-acre campus. The 59-year-old ex-Playboy centerfold, an unlikely savior of Haitian children, but because of her childhood uniquely able to relate, is a woman on a mission honoring her promise to God to take care of his children.