CHICAGO (WLS) -- Barbara Blaine, who did pioneering work on behalf of individuals abused by priests and founded the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), died on Sunday, the organization said in a statement.
Blaine, 61, who resigned as SNAP president in February, was surrounded by family and friends when she died, the statement said.
Blaine stepped down after three decades of campaigning to force the Catholic Church to recognize the extent of the scandal and compensate thousands of people affected.
Blaine did not say why she resigned from SNAP.
She founded SNAP in 1988, years after she was abused as an 8th grader by a Toledo, Ohio priest who taught at the Catholic school she attended, according to the organization's website. Her pleas for help to Toledo's bishop were ignored. The first SNAP meeting of victims was held at a Holiday Inn in Chicago.
"I knew there were other survivors out there and wondered if they felt the same debilitating hurt and if so, how they coped with it. I thought they might hold the wisdom I lacked. I looked for other survivors and asked if they would be willing to talk," Blaine said in a statement in February.
The group gained prominence in 2002 after the Boston Globe's stories on the priest sexual abuse scandal rocked the Catholic Church.
The organization now has more than 20,000 members and support groups meet in over 60 cities across the U.S. and the world.
Barbara Dorris, SNAP managing director, said: "Few people have done more to protect kids and help victims than Barbara Blaine. Her relentless advocacy enabled millions to eventually accept a long unbelievable reality: that tens of thousands of priests raped and fondled hundreds of thousands of kids while bishops hid these heinous crimes. She started - and for almost 30 years -worked extremely hard to help build the world's most successful organization of child sex abuse victims. Her contributions to a safer society would be hard to overstate."
To make a donation in Blaine's memory, visit www.bishop-accountability.org.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.