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Philanthropy Spotlight: Wood Family Foundation

Philanthropy Spotlight: Wood Family Foundation

On October 22, The Wood Family Foundation(WFF) will host their fundraiser Woody’s Western Roundup at Joe’s on Weed Street with performance by country music artist Chris Young.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Sarah and Kerry Wood, founders of WFF to talk about philanthropy, the foundation’s new mentoring initiative-Pitch In and the legacy they hope to leave their children.

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SLC: You mentioned in a recent interview after the hiring of the foundations Executive Director about Founder’s Syndrome what is that?
Sarah: Founders Syndrome is the result of developing something and caring about it as if it were one of your children and then having to release it to someone else that you hope hold it the same way you do. You hope the person will represent your family in the right light. To release that control of something that you truly feel so passionate about is difficult but to succeed you can’t do it yourself and hold all the responsibilities.
You get over the fear to succeed.

SLC: How did the partnership with Chris Young come about?
Sarah: We reached out to him and Ed Warm who donated his venue-Joe’s on Weed  for the fundraiser also suggested Chris and since he hasn’t played a show in Chicago this year  he said yes.

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SLC: Pitch In is a new mentorship initiative from the WFF Foundation, What made you decide to go this route and open up this arm of the foundation to mentorship?

Kerry: Over the first year from the launch of the foundation, we were trying to figure out what direction we wanted to go from a foundation standpoint. We’ve done things with hospitals, we’ve done baseball clinics in Englewood, toy drives and gifts during the holidays, but we wanted to make a lasting impact. The mentoring program will not only make an impact on the children in the program but also their families and life outside of this.
The toy drives are also great but from a long term view we wanted to help impact change.

Sarah: With the baseball clinics we held over the summer, after 5 days of spending time with these kids getting to know them, just when we had enough time to get to know them it was over and we may or may not see them next summer. With the Pitch In program, we see them weekly through the whole school year and we specifically chose 4th grade to begin as a good time to get in there, their innocence at that age isn’t quite lost and the great thing about the program is that we grow with them.
One of the issues with schools in Chicago is that it’s not a given where you go to high school  and there is a big dropout rate between 8th grade and high-school. What we hope to accomplish with Pitch In is to get them through 8th grade and transition them to another non-profit doing the same thing at the high school level.
With our scholarship at UIC, I am looking at some of these fourth graders,  knowing they have the possibility to make it all the way to college.

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SLC: Do you hope to expand the program outside of Lawndale Elementary?
Kerry: We’ve always said, from a foundation standpoint, quality over quantity. That’s still the case but if this model works the way we want and expect it to, absolutely we would love to go to another school to do the same thing and impact other communities. I never say never but right now we want to get this off the ground and get it going.
Sarah: With every year we are going to have another class joining in and in 5 years we will have the 4th-8th grader together once our inaugural class makes it all the way through.
Look at After School Matters, started by former Chicago first lady the late Maggie Daley, you see the success and how it’s being piloted all over the city schools.
Would that be a dream for Pitch In? For sure but we want to do one thing and do it well. Focus on this program before we over extend ourselves.

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SLC: What do you hope for those attending Woody’s Western Roundup to leave with?
Kerry: I hope they have a great time and learn about what we do as a foundation. We want to get our message across and ultimately raise funds for the kids we are helping.

SLC: In terms of looking for mentors for Pitch In what are some things and qualities that you look for?
Sarah: There are lot of things we look for. Our big thing is that this role is a time commitment. Though we would love to have a CEO, we want to make sure the kids see the same face every week and aren’t set up for disappointment by not having the same person every week. Definitely someone with a stable schedule which lends itself more to the recently out of college, young professionals, junior board members that haven’t started to have a family yet.
I would love to have African American males especially, that these kids can look up to and see that they can be that someday. Not just having Derrick Rose or Common, but people that are doing great work in the community.

SLC: What kind of legacy do you hope to leave your children to carry forth?
Kerry: I just want them to be involved in something they are passionate about.
Sarah: I don’t want them to ever stop giving. I think there is so much need in the world. Their passion doesn’t have to be our passion but as long as they have one. When I was growing up at our church, my mom’s passion was clothing and feeding the homeless; My passion is children. As long as you are giving your children the skill set that it’s not just you, there are others and if they can take that and use it will make me proud. Their legacy can be giving and wherever they want that to be is up to them.

SLC: In terms of philanthropy, when people hear the Wood Family Foundation and know that it’s affiliated with Kerry Wood do you think it makes fundraising a bit hard to navigate?
Sarah: Being the Wood Family Foundation at times, it is easier for our staff to make calls given Kerry’s reputation but you are right we do get that stereotype. We have to explain to potential donors that we need them, the foundation is a public entity not a private family foundation and are legally, by IRS rules, not allowed to fund this. We want longevity with the foundation and the Pitch In program we develop a program that people can identify with, like Afterschool Matters, and down the line it may have Wood Family at the bottom.

SLC: What does philanthropy mean to you in three words?
Sarah: Hope (to have hope for our society or humanity, ).  Giving (giving of time or writing a check). Future (I don’t think we will be moving forward as a society without people caring).
Kerry: Giving Society Hope.
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Woody’s Western Roudup will take place Wednesday October 22 at Joe’s on Weed Street. Click Here for tickets
Photos: Holly Max Myrick; facebook

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