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Donna Whitney: Rising to the Scrivner Challenge

Los Altos Hills resident Donna Whitney chooses to philanthropically support programs that have maximum impact on youth in need. That is one of the reasons the board of the Whitney Education Foundation she heads recently pledged $50,000 to the Scrivner Challenge to fully endow ASPIRE, El Camino Hospital's outpatient adolescent mental health program. "I always try to support groups that have strong leadership to touch other people, particularly children," she says. "Youth are our most vulnerable population and our future. If you sponsor the people that are helping the youth, your gift will go a lot further."

A nurse by training and a strong supporter of the arts, Donna turned her attention to El Camino Hospital Foundation in 2006, when her husband Uwe Kladde became the director of perioperative and interventional services at El Camino Hospital. By chance she received an invitation from the Foundation to learn about Hope to Health as the women's giving circle was being formed, which provided entrée to her new philanthropic interest. She learned of ASPIRE in 2010, when the group's teen affiliate granted the seed money that launched the program. Since then, Donna and other Hope to Health members have regularly voted to provide additional funding for the teen mental health service, and she has stayed informed about its growth and impact.

Although Donna and Uwe have allocated a significant portion of their 2011 Make an Investment with Healthy Returns campaign donation to ASPIRE, she wanted to do more. "I have always known that mental health is underfunded and this is a great need. My son and daughter, who are Whitney Education Foundation board members, are both raising teenage children. We are all aware of the extreme stresses placed on our youth today."

The Whitney Education Foundation donates to various causes, among them Resource Area for Teachers (RAFT), supporting the individual teachers who each nurture many students. It established and helps sustain an Adopt-A-College program at a low-income San Jose elementary school and, over 30 years, has provided small college scholarships to more than 680 of its graduates. The decision to contribute to the ASPIRE endowment fits into this philanthropic model of supporting educational programs for children that have broad reach and cascading benefits.

Donna hopes more people will be inspired by Mary and Doug Scrivner's generous challenge, designed to give our community's children the chance for a better future. "If you have more than enough for yourself," she urges, "please share with others."

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