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The Mahons: three generations of giving

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In 1968, Ken and Ellen Mahon's four year-old son Andrew died from spinal meningitis. After his death the grieving parents did something quite unusual—they set aside the money they would have used raising Andrew to create a charitable foundation in his name.

 

Originally it was a humble fund that supported organizations benefitting children's health. Fortune was good to Ken and Ellen over the years and they continued to add to the fund. Now the Andrew Mahon Foundation is large both in size and scope. In its 50-year history, the foundation has given more than $6 million to a broad range of charities, including UVic's CanAssist.

A family affair
Ken and Ellen involve the whole family when choosing how to distribute funds to organizations.

“As soon as my brothers and I were old enough, we took part in the allocation process,” says Andre Rowland, Ken and Ellen's daughter. Now her children are learning what it means to run a charitable foundation.

“The family sits around a table and jointly decides which causes we can help, and how much we can give each one,” Andre says. They look at each request very carefully, which means Andre's son, Fraser, who just graduated from UVic with a BA in philosophy, often has extra homework to do.

“Each family member does their research on certain organizations and brings their recommendations back to the group. So our kids learn about how philanthropy works and how they can help their community.”

Multi-year pledge for CanAssist's TeenWork program
The foundation has just renewed its commitment to UVic with a pledge to support CanAssist's TeenWork youth employment program for five years. This makes a huge difference to the program's capacity to help youth with disabilities become more self-sufficient.

“The fact that we know we can count on the foundation's support for five years means clients and their families can rely on this program for as long as they need it,” says Anne-Lise Loomer, CanAssist's development officer.

Thanks to the vision and generosity of Ken and Ellen, a family has created a lasting legacy in memory of a small boy who lost his life far too soon.

“Giving is just part of everyone in our family's lives,” says Andre, “and I think we'll see that continue for many more generations to come.”

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