The national organization Friends of the Children announced that its network received a three-year, $33 million gift from philanthropists Gary and Christine Rood of Vancouver, Wash.
Friends of the Children is the only national mentoring program in the country with paid, professional mentors called “Friends” who walk alongside youth for 12+ years, no matter what. This gift offers powerful sustaining momentum for the organization to serve thousands more children, many of whom are in—or at risk of entering—foster care.
“Gary and Christine have been generous supporters of Friends of the Children since 2018. But when we learned about this gift, and the timing, we were astonished and overwhelmed at their sincere generosity,” said Terri Sorensen, CEO of Friends of the Children – National. “It is incredible to kick off both our 30th anniversary and National Mentoring Month with this extraordinary gift. This investment opens up unfettered opportunities for the network and the youth we serve and provides us the unique opportunity to establish the first-ever national learning hub for long-term mentoring.”
Initially, the Roods had planned to include Friends of the Children – National as a legacy gift of their estate but then chose to make a gift now so the couple could see the impact in their own lifetimes. The gift, which is the largest ever given by the Roods to a single organization, comes off the heels of philanthropist MacKenzie Scott’s historic $44 million gift to the Friends of the Children national network in August of 2022. Citing Scott’s historic gift and the multi-year, multimillion-dollar gift from basketball legend Michael Jordan as inspiration for their gift, the Rood’s donation will span three years to support the organization.
“Friends of the Children’s proven track record and long-term commitment to youth deserves not just recognition but continued and sustaining investment,” said 84-year-old Gary Rood, owner of Rood Investments in Vancouver, Wash. “We are deeply committed to giving generously now because so many children and families need support now more than ever. We also want to see the fruits of this gift within our lifetime. It will be an honor to witness how this gift may transform youth and their communities across the country in the next few years.”
In recent years, the Rood’s have substantially increased the size and scope of their philanthropic giving. The couple, who both came from limited opportunity and went on to build successful medical careers and thriving businesses, are well-recognized for their philanthropic giving in the Pacific Northwest. The Community Foundation for Southwest Washington awarded the couple its 2021 Philanthropists of the Year award in recognition of their charitable giving in the region. In addition, the two are serving as the presenting sponsors for Friends of the Children – National’s 30th anniversary this year and provided significant support to launch the Friends of the Children-SW Washington chapter in 2020.
Of the $33 million gift, $28 million will support expanding the organization’s child and whole-family well-being services to thousands more children and families throughout the nation, including $5 million to be directly given to the Friends of the Children – SW Washington chapter located in the Rood’s community. In just nine years, the Friends of the Children network has grown from five to 29 locations across the U.S. The remaining $5 million will establish the Friends of the Children National Center of Excellence, which will be named after its founder, Duncan Campbell, and his wife Cindy and will be headquartered in the historic flagship building of Friends of the Children’s first chapter at 44 NE Morris St. in Portland, Ore.
The Rood’s gift is being provided in the form of commercial real property, which includes donating five debt-free commercial properties over the next three years. The first two properties are being donated to Friends of the Children – National in the second quarter of 2023 and will then be immediately sold by the organization to maximize the amount of the donation.
Friends of the Children pairs youth impacted by systemic inequities, including poverty, foster care and criminal justice system involvement, and other traumatic childhood experiences, with “Friends” who stay by each child’s side from as early as age 4 through high school graduation. The organization empowers youth and families to overcome challenges at school, at home, and in their community.
The Friends of the Children mentoring model empowers youth—many of whom have been impacted by foster care—to achieve remarkable results. Comparisons of youth with Friends versus youth nationwide transitioning out of foster care show that:
83% of youth with Friends graduate high school, while in some communities, graduation rates are as low as 55% for youth without a Friend; 93% of youth with Friends avoid the juvenile justice system, compared to 74% without a Friend; 98% of youth with Friends avoid early parenting, while only 74% without a Friend wait to parent until after their teen years; and
92% of our program graduates enroll in post-secondary education, serve our country, or become employed in a living wage job.
The organization’s growth has been fueled by the success and efficacy of the model, with 30 years of data informing the approach and changing lives and communities.
Friends of the Children is a national nonprofit with the mission of impacting generational change by empowering youth who face the greatest obstacles through relationships with professional mentors – 12+ years, no matter what. Their successful model is now in 29 locations around the country.