For Don Schlattman, choosing just one was not enough. In the spring of 1997, his wife, Laurie, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Her death eight years later impacted her husband of 26 years, as well as her children, Malia and Alex. Laurie’s main concern had always been her children. Schlattman was fairly certain how his wife would have wanted him to focus his donations to MD Anderson.
“However, I discussed with my kids what we should target. Our options included research, treatments and children,” Schlattman says. “Our philanthropic advisor at MD Anderson helped us. We all agreed that children’s research and care don’t receive as much attention or resources as adult research. We also thought it was an area that Laurie would have wanted to support.”
Endowment puts children first
In 2007, Schlattman decided to create the Laurie McKnight Schlattman Endowment Fund for Supportive Care for Children Affected by Cancer, a perfect vehicle to help others in their time of need. Schlattman says one of the great things about the endowment structure is that it is forever.
“Long after I’m gone, and even after my kids are gone, the funds from Laurie’s endowment will be there to help children affected by cancer,” he says. “What better legacy to leave for eternity in Laurie’s name.”
Martha Aschenbrenner, program manager in MD Anderson’s Department of Palliative Care and Rehabilitation Medicine, runs the program that currently benefits from the endowment funds. She helps families counsel their children (younger than 18 years old) when one of the parents is in the end-of-life phase of cancer.
“Children of adult patients face the worst kind of loss — the loss of their ‘protector,’ their mentor, their mom or dad — often at an age that precludes them from understanding what has happened or from knowing how to seek help for their grief,” Aschenbrenner says. “The endowment means that we can help these children and families in a positive way.”
The gift provides many opportunities to facilitate in-hospital interactions and communication from a distance. For example, laptops and Skype accounts purchased with endowment funds allow children to keep in contact with a parent in the hospital.
Legacy work — helping the patient and other family members create keepsakes like photograph albums and fingerprint jewelry for the children — is another large component of plans for the endowment.
To make a difference
Schlattman funds the endowment through planned giving. Of all the philanthropic methods, this one takes the most effort, negotiation and planning.
Many choose to leave funds for an institution via their will, trust, life income or annuities. For some, these methods often help fund the goal of a previous giving initiative — in Schlattman’s case, the endowment in his wife’s name.
“Obviously, the ability of Laurie’s endowment to have an impact on children affected by cancer at MD Anderson is directly proportional to the funding of the endowment,” he says. “Including the institution as a beneficiary in my estate is just another way to enable the endowment to have an impact.”
Party for a good cause
Every year, for the past four Septembers, the Schlattmans have thrown a party to honor Laurie and support the endowment.
This is called a third-party event (not sponsored by MD Anderson, although the institution is a recipient of money raised) and is one of the most popular and easy ways to make a difference. It’s also a fun way to take common interests and combine them with a common cause.
“Laurie always loved any excuse to get together with family and friends,” Schlattman says. “The parties started with just family, neighbors and friends who knew Laurie. It has since expanded to include others who want to support the endowment. Attendance ranges from 50 to 80 people.”
The many faces of giving
Schlattman says philanthropy has always been a part of his family upbringing. “Giving is just what we do. I definitely believe in paying it forward. I’m very blessed and fortunate, so why not share that with others somehow?”
His employer also believes in sharing.
“Chevron’s policies toward supporting employees’ and retirees’ charitable donations are extraordinary,” he says. “The company matches my donations dollar for dollar, up to an annual maximum amount. A significant portion of Laurie’s endowment has been the result of Chevron’s matching funds.”
While his methods range from endowments to planned giving, matching gifts and third-party events, Schlattman’s philanthropic goal has one unified mission.
“I have a hope for the children who benefit from this giving,” he says. “It’s that they will have a better experience with cancer than they would have without what the endowment offers.”