This being our 15th year with the Zukowski Family Foundation, I thought it appropriate to use this letter to reflect on our past decade and a half and to thank many of those people who have helped the ZFF grow into the organization that it is today. I am so proud of how far we have come, I am so grateful for all of our contributors’ time, effort, and donations, and I am filled with optimism for the future and those that we can help going forward.
Fifteen years and counting! If you asked me 15 years ago what my hopes were for our foundation I’d be honest and say I wasn’t completely sure. I knew that we didn’t want to be just another charitable foundation writing checks. How would we differentiate ourselves? What could possibly separate us from so many other worthwhile causes?
We started small by building our scholarship program. We included access to a network of resources, mentoring opportunities, resume help, and many check-in points throughout our recipients’ academic careers, including annual dinners and exam touch points with notes & gift boxes to help our students get through their exams with less stress. Ah Ha… Relationships would be one of our differentiators. No, we won’t just write a check and wait until next year… we try and take part in every aspect as possible with every relationship we enter into. Thank you Cheryl for all that you’ve done for the past 15 years for our scholarship winners.
All of our programs are set around personal relationships and of course our Vision & Mission in helping children here in the United States of America. Pretty simple but effective. For the past 15 years, we’ve worked on building programs that have allowed us to enter into deeper and more meaningful relationships.
We also sponsor and support a few National programs, such as The Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital and The Ronald McDonald House, which are programs we supported while living in Baltimore and before our foundation was formed in 2008. These programs remain near and dear to our kids and we hope to be able to continue providing support.
For the most part, we look to support smaller programs that don’t get the National exposure, (tv time), that the larger programs receive. One such organization is the The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp out for Ashford CT. They run mostly off of the profits from Paul Newman’s food sales. For the past 35 years The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp has provided an outlet for seriously ill children. The camp provides much-needed fun and a joyful experience outside the hospital environment. They have grown from serving 288 children in 1988 to more than 20,000 today and rapidly growing with their latest expansion to the Mid-Atlantic region. We thank George Reed our Northeast board member who continues to build our relationship at all levels within The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp.
We also continue to reach back to my hometown of Terryville CT. We have been able to expand our support with the Plymouth Food Pantry for the past five years. Larry Chiucartello, director of the Plymouth Food Bank continues to do an outstanding job by adding educational programs while meeting the food needs within our community. Their goal is to reduce food insecurity for their customers by providing healthy and nutritious food, wellness programs, and community referrals for those in need. We are thankful for having Larry at the helm leading the way. Larry has also been instrumental in introducing George Reed, our Northeast ZFF board member, to Small Wonders where George has worked with the Knights of Columbus to get 72 new coats to the Small Wonders program… Many Thanks, Larry!
So as you can see we set out to build long, lasting relationships in everything we become involved with. I would like to share with you three examples from e-mails, notes, and messages received from some of our scholarship recipients. We receive many but I picked three that demonstrate different points on their academic or new careers for those past graduates. I chose our newest scholarship recipient along with one that just finished their fourth year and graduated May this year, along with one of our graduates from 2017.
The first note is Elijah Dionne. Elijah is a student at Central Connecticut State College. He received his associate’s degree from Tunxis Community College and wants to develop techniques that will help
aspiring musicians with disabilities. A small excerpt from Elijah’s message: A tool is only as valuable as the person using it. I’m of the mindset that having an education, a degree, is a tool. It’s not like a hammer or power drill either. It isn’t used for just one thing. Education is a multi-purpose tool. It’s more like a Swiss Army Knife.
By granting me this scholarship, you’ve put your faith in me that I will learn how to use this tool. You’ve trusted that I will utilize it for the betterment of myself, my future, and the future of those around me. For that, I am eternally grateful. Someday, I hope to pass this good deed on to others.
Our next message came from Isabella Christina, who graduated from the University of New Haven in May 2023.
As I prepare to graduate on Saturday I wanted to take the time to thank everyone at the foundation for seeing my potential just four years ago when I was a senior at Terryville High School. Your continuous support throughout my academic journey has not been overlooked and I cannot thank you enough.
And last a note from Tom Valencis who graduated in 2017 from Eastern Connecticut State College with a degree in finance. Tom was a single-year scholarship recipient back in 2013. We were so impressed with Tom’s work ethic and his willingness to help others that we extended Tom’s scholarship for an additional three years. Tom’s message:
This past week was my first week as the Controller for PCX Aerosystems, where I’ll be the head of accounting and finance. As I begin to settle into my new role, I am humbly reminded of where it all began.
I would not be in such a position if it wasn’t for the kindness and opportunities the Zukowski Family Foundation presented to me about this time a decade ago. You helped form a foundation that was vital in my growth and development, which instilled a mindset to always push myself to be the best I can be. Though my mindset sometimes lets me be consumed by my work, I don’t ever want to lose sight of the importance of staying in contact with the ones I love.
I truly appreciate all that you have done, for not only me but for all the other kids’ lives you impact. If there is anything I can do for you or the foundation to further your mission, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.
These are just a few examples of relationships we’ve made over the past 15 years… I believe in building longstanding, trustful, relationships… That will hopefully always be our cornerstone!
Having a strong base of supporters with several new additions over the past 18 months will allow us once again to increase and or maintain all the programs including several new programs introduced over the past two years. These include Special Olympics Montana, the Symphony youth program out of Great Falls Montana, and our third year supporting the National Federation of the Blind.
We are thrilled to have found our way back to Special Olympics through our friends, Beth McFadden and Bob Norbie. Having had the privilege to be Honorary Chairperson for Special Olympics Montana and attending the World Games in 2008 in Shanghai was one of the highlights of my life. We are thrilled that we are once again supporting such a great cause. An excerpt from Rhonda McCarty, CEO of Special Olympics Montana, “Beyond the benefit of year-round competition, our athletes experience the sheer joy that comes from new-found confidence, self-esteem, determination, and friendship. This is perhaps best expressed in the words of Special Olympics Montana Athlete Ruschelle Tyvand of Butte. “Special Olympics Montana teaches you to believe in yourself and to BE yourself”
We knew we couldn’t solve all of the world’s issues. Still, hopefully, by focusing on children in the US we could at least establish long-lasting relationships with individuals and organizations that believe in paying it forward… we couldn’t boil the ocean. Still, we certainly hope to have a long-lasting ripple effect that will carry on for many generations.
In closing, a BIG THANK YOU to all of our current supporters, thank you for your generosity, thank you for enabling us to build these long-lasting relationships, and thank you for paying it forward. To everyone else, thank you for reading this letter, we hope that we can count on you to help further grow our foundation and to join the ZFF family. Your time and donations go a long way to making a positive impact on those in need and continuing to build longstanding relationships in everything we touch.
We are wishing everyone a very Happy Holidays this year!