For some, it's a heart-wrenching loss – the death of a father, mother, child or sibling. For others it's a decision based on values, like a father who dedicates his resources to creating parity among students in the public school system where his own child thrived. And, for still others, it is the experience of seeing a need and then seeing a way to address it.
Whatever form they come in, profound personal experiences have moved many a family to dedicate their time, talent and money to make the world a better place for kids. Here are the stories of five family foundations powered by a personal experience of loss or enlightenment, along with information about how you can help.
The Tyler J. Rogers Foundation
For Tyler Rogers, a fire for giving was ignited the day, at age 12, when the great economic disparities that exist among children right here in Washington state became real for him: "There are kids out there who don't have a bike," he told his mother. "I can't believe that."
For Tyler's family, the fire was lit by losing Tyler at the age of 13, and by their desire to keep his feisty spirit alive. Tyler, an Olympia resident, was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2006. He loved to listen to Seattle radio stations, especially on the way to or during long cancer treatments.
One morning before Christmas, he heard a radio story about the annual bicycle drive for the Forgotten Children's Fund, the local charity that gives Christmas presents to children whose families can't afford gifts.
"I think until that moment he really thought every child had a bicycle – that that was just part of being a kid," says Steve Rogers. "My wife needed to tell him, no, not everyone can afford to buy their child a bicycle."
Soon after, Tyler woke his mom up at 6 a.m. determined to go out and purchase a bike for the drive before his daily cancer treatment. Unwilling to take no for an answer, Tyler dragged his mom to their local Target store at 8 a.m. and made the purchase with his own money. He would not even allow his mom to contribute. The pair then made a beeline for the bike donation drop-off site, where the bike drive's radio partners were broadcasting.
"They were so amazed to see this boy with cancer there who purchased a bike for someone else, and they wanted to interview him right then," says Connie Rogers. "But I had to tell them we had an appointment for radiation for 9 a.m. They had us come back later for an interview."
After Tyler passed away in 2007, family members and friends took up the charge and started to collect money and donate bikes. The Rogers family has given 20 to 30 bicycles to the Forgotten Children's Fund every year in Tyler's memory.
The family buys some bikes out of pocket and hosts small fundraisers to purchase others. They host two "Taterfest" events each year around Tyler's birthday (Tater was Tyler's nickname), calling on friends and family to contribute. And Tyler's big sister, Jessica Rogers, now 21, raised $5,000 one year through a website she set up to help the cause.
In September, the Rogers family combined their efforts and officially launched The Tyler G. Rogers Foundation to expand its bike donations to the Forgotten Children's Fund and give financial support to the hospitals in Seattle and Tennessee that served Tyler during his illness.
"We will continue to do the bike drive every year, and our goal is to surpass the numbers from the previous drive every single year," says Steve Rogers. "It's what Tyler wanted us to do."
To contribute to the Tyler J. Rogers Foundation, mail your donation to:
Tyler J. Rogers Foundation
1703 Oxbow St. N.E.
Olympia, WA 98516
The Rogers were working on their website at press time. It will soon be found at www.tylerjrogersfoundation.org.
Safe Crossings Foundation
Seattle attorney Teresa Bigelow was expecting her third child when her husband Bill was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Her youngest was just 6 months old when his father passed away; but in many ways both he and his siblings, ages 5 and 6 at the time of their father's death, were lucky.
That's because Bigelow and her husband, Bill Robertson, had the means to get counseling for their kids while Robertson was still alive, therapy that helped the older children cope with their dad's illness and, later, his death.
A week after Roberson died, his daughter turned 7.
"The counselor was able to help me understand that she processed his death much like an adult would, that he was gone forever," recalls Bigelow. "But my 5-year-old saw it in a more fantastical way, that he was gone somewhere else and could come back."
It wasn't until two years later that the couple's middle child fully understood the permanency of death.
"If I hadn't had someone telling me what was going on with him, I wouldn't have understood his behaviors two years later – that he was finally really understanding that his dad was not coming back."
When Robertson's law firm, Williams, Kastner, announced that it wanted to honor both him and Ken McMullin – a colleague who had passed away unexpectedly leaving children behind – Bigelow and McMullin's widow stepped up to create the Safe Crossings Foundation, an organization committed to funding grief support services for children dealing with the terminal illness and death of a loved one.
The foundation was developed to fill a gap. When Robertson was diagnosed, there was no one organization in the region providing anticipatory grief support – that is, counseling for kids and families facing the death of a loved one and moving through the last stages with that person. Since 1989, Safe Crossings has raised the funds to provide counseling and other support to more than 23,000 children in partnership with Providence Hospice of Seattle. All services are provided free of charge.
Says Bigelow: "I had been able to afford for my kids to see a counselor prior to Bill's death as well as after he died, and the counselor was very reassuring to both Bill and me that our kids would get through it, that they would be OK. This was so important to Bill … We want this for every child and family."
The Safe Crossings program run by Providence has expanded over the years. In addition to providing one-on-one counseling and grief groups, it works at approximately 25 area schools annually conducting support groups, as well as providing educational and support services to schools dealing with losses such as the death of a classmate or teacher.
"I am really proud that Safe Crossings is dealing with such a broad spectrum of people working through their grief," Bigelow says.
Tom Hall and his two teenage daughters are part of that spectrum. After his wife died of melanoma several years ago, Hall learned about Camp Erin, a program that brings together kids living with loss in a safe, nurturing camp setting to process their grief and connect with each other. As part of their services, Safe Crossings pays for kids to attend.
Camp Erin, says Hall, gave his girls hope and community. They learned they were not alone, despite feeling that way.
At a recent fundraiser for the foundation, Hall told those gathered that the image he most associates with Safe Crossings is that of a small child in a big rowboat on a deep ocean. The boat is grief, and when a child is ready to move forward from it, he or she will instinctively grab one of the oars (too small or grief-stricken to grab both) and start to pull. But pulling one oar all alone simply causes the boat to spin in circles. The child can never go forward. The foundation is the caring adult who comes and sits beside the child and when he or she is ready to row, pulls the other oar.
"You just can't do it alone," said Hall. "You need help. You need someone to come along beside you and help you steer that boat."
To contribute to the Safe Crossings Foundation, mail your donation to:
Safe Crossings Foundation
815 First Ave., Suite 312
Seattle, WA 98104
Or, go to the Safe Crossings website at www.safecrossingsfoundation.org.
InvestED (formerly the Saul & Dayee G. Haas Foundation)
Seattle radio and television pioneer Saul Haas believed in public education. So much, that he put his family's money where his belief was. A product of public schools in New York, Haas and his wife Dayee enrolled their daughter Deesa in public schools in Seattle.
It was an experience at Garfield High School that inspired the Haas' to launch the Saul and Dayee G. Haas Foundation, a family foundation that has served tens of thousands of students since 1963.
As the story goes, Haas was at a Garfield back-to-school night when he asked the principal what he could do to help the school, which had a large minority and low-income student population.
The principal told Haas about a student who had dropped out of Garfield that same day. The reason? The girl was embarrassed by her shabby clothes. She had dropped out to work to help her mother provide better for her siblings. At the meeting that night Haas wrote out a check for $500 and gave it to the principal, telling him "to do that which otherwise would not be timely done."
Nearly half a century later, the foundation, renamed InvestED, continues to make grants to more than 700 public schools in Washington State annually. Each school receives anywhere from $200 to $5,500 a year. Schools use the money to help students cover things – big and small – that they can't afford.
InvestED funds have gone toward sports-participation fees, caps and gowns, uniforms and even a haircut. They have paid for basics like clothing and food. They purchased a choir uniform for one teen in foster care, allowing her to focus on a talent and avoid what she called the "risky behavior" that lures kids in crisis.
The foundation's vision comes right from the mouth of Saul Haas, who founded KIRO TV, the very same words he used when he wrote the first check to Garfield. InvestED's vision is: "… to help promising young people at critical times in their lives. To do that which otherwise would not be timely done."
<i>To donate to InvestED, mail your donation to:
InvestED (formerly Saul & Dayee G. Haas Foundation)
911 Eighth Ave N.
Seattle, WA 98109
Or, go to the InvestED website at www.invested.org.
Nesholm Family Foundation
The work of Seattle architect John Nesholm and his firm's partners can be seen all over Seattle – in Benaroya Hall, the Convention Center, McCaw Hall and several buildings on the University of Washington campus. And the work of the Nesholm family, through the Nesholm Family Foundation, can be seen in a number of areas: health and human services, education and the performing arts.
Nesholm's father strongly believed in a forward-looking problem-solving approach to life and in giving back to the community that was so good to him. The foundation has based its work on that same vision. Since its inception, Laurel Nesholm, John Nesholm's wife, has served as the foundation's executive director. The couple's daughters, Kirsten and Erika Nesholm, serve on the board along with three nonfamily board members.
Several years ago, the Nesholm Family Foundation's board concluded that supporting middle-school success was the greatest need in public education. Since that time, the foundation has funded consultant teams and designed programs aimed at increasing student achievement among local sixth- to eighth-graders at Aki Kurose, Denny, and Mercer middle schools, as well as at Meany Middle School before it closed.
Through their middle school initiative, the foundation has funded substitute teachers to give regular school staff time to coordinate curriculum. The foundation has also employed full-time reading coaches to assist language arts teachers in middle schools. It has provided administrative support to principals and purchased thousands of books for schools. It also provides care coordinators from Sound Mental Health to help reduce barriers to academic progress.
"These initiatives have made real progress in changing the culture and improving test results in every classroom in every school," says John Nesholm. "These positive developments cause us to continue to be optimistic about real progress."
For more information about the Nesholm Family Foundation:
Contact Philanthropy Northwest at www.philanthropynw.org.
Or send a letter to the foundation at:
20 Lakeside Ave., No. 340
Seattle, WA 98122-6548
The Moyer Foundation
Former Seattle Mariner Jamie Moyer and his wife Karen are all about kids.
How could they not be? The couple has eight children of their own, an experience that in part inspired the Moyers to create The Moyer Foundation, dedicated to helping children in crisis.
The idea for a foundation started to form in 1993 when Jamie Moyer, a major league all-star pitcher and World Series champion, was introduced to a 2-year-old cancer patient named Gregory Chaya at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Doctors had told Gregory's parents there was no hope for curing his leukemia after a failed bone marrow transplant. Gregory was the same age as the Moyers' son at the time. Unwilling to give up, Gregory's family sought treatment at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, where he underwent a successful transplant and became a Mariner's baseball fan. Over the next few years, the families kept in touch, with Gregory hoping that one day Moyer might pitch for the Seattle team.
He got his wish in 1996, when the Moyers arrived in Seattle. Moyer has called Gregory's recovery a "miracle" and has said that he and Karen had Gregory's story of hope in mind when they formed The Moyer Foundation in 2000. The foundation has never waffled on its mission: to help children in distress.
In addition to funding local grants to organizations that share that mission, the Foundation has created and funds its own programs, including Camp Erin bereavement camps for grieving children and teens, and Camp Mariposa, serving children who are affected by the substance abuse of a family member.
Since opening the first Camp Erin in 2002 in Snohomish, Camp Erin has become the largest bereavement camp in the country, located in 35 cities in 23 states (five of them in Washington). The camps serve more than 2,500 children annually.
While Jamie Moyer now pitches for the Phillies, he and Karen Moyer remain very involved in fundraising and growing The Moyer Foundation, still headquartered in Seattle.
"Everyone has a passion. It's just a matter of defining and letting your use of time, talent and/or treasure help that cause," says Karen Moyer. "We chose children in distress because we are parents of eight, and through our blessings, we fight the fight for kids in need. Every child deserves a chance to smile."
To donate to The Moyer Foundation, mail your donation to:
The Moyer Foundation
2426 32nd Ave. W., No. 200
Seattle, WA 98199
You can also call 206-298-1217 or go to the foundation's website at www.moyerfoundation.org.
Want to Start a Family Foundation?
There are many ways to ensure that your family's resources go to support a cause you care about in perpetuity. One way to do this is to establish a family foundation, set up as a trust or nonprofit.
Funding for a family foundation most often starts from one person, one couple, or a limited number of family members. In many cases, once the endowment has been formed, the only sources of funding may be investment income or bequests at the death of the donor or family members.
Family foundations make up almost half of all private foundations – approximately 33,100 out of about 67,700 foundations in the country. Three out of five family foundations hold assets of less than $1 million dollars, according to the Council of Foundations.
As an alternative to setting up your own family foundation, the Seattle Foundation allows you to create a fund to support the causes and organizations you choose. The Seattle Foundation takes care of the administrative requirements for you.
The Seattle Foundation: www.seattlefoundation.org.
Read a FAQ about starting a family foundation at the Council of Foundations: www.cof.org.
Order a booklet on how to start a foundation from Foundation Source: Call 1-800-839-0054 or go online to www1.foundationsource.com.
Learn about local family foundations through Philanthropy Northwest: www.philanthropynw.org.
Cheryl Murfin is a Seattle writer specializing in pregnancy, birth and parenting issues.