United Way campaign seeks to change the outcome of kids' lives

December 12, 2012
Author: Cathy Mckitrick | The Salt Lake Tribune

What better date, 12-12-12, and time — 12:12 p.m. — to announce the achievement of raising $12 million to help the United Way of Salt Lake and various collaborating entities level the playing field for area children to succeed?

The nonprofit organization’s yearlong Changing the Odds Campaign, however, surpassed its $12 million goal by securing $14.3 million in donations before the five twelves aligned.

During a Wednesday event at the Marriott City Center in downtown Salt Lake City, Deborah Bayle, president and CEO of the United Way of Salt Lake, praised the families, foundations, corporations and individuals who donated to the campaign.

Million-dollar donors included the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation, Kem and Carolyn Gardner and family, Jon and Karen Huntsman, the Mark and Kathie Miller Foundation, the Weinholtz Family Foundation and Savage, a multi-state supply-chain company with locations in Utah. Many other contributors also gave sizable sums to the campaign.

"What we can accomplish with all their support will transform lives and neighborhoods today and for generations to come," Bayle said.

Over the past decade the United Way of Salt Lake has expanded its focus to include collaborative problem solving in its programs, Bayle added.

Taran Chun, principal of Granite Park Junior High, defined some of those problems as he voiced gratitude to be a part of a movement he considers "truly transformative."

"As educators we are only supposed to be responsible for the education of a child," Chun said. "But what we know to be true is that children come to school with many challenges that they face" — such as poverty, inadequate health care and nutrition, lagging far behind in school and wrestling with language and cultural barriers.

"All these things impede their ability to simply sit down in a classroom, open up a book or turn on a tablet and learn," Chun said.

By teaming with United Way, Chun said that Granite Park has been able to create opportunities and programs that not only serve students but their families and communities as well.

"We’ve been able to reach out in ways that I can’t do alone as a principal," Chun said, "and my teachers don’t have skills, time or the ability to do it on their own either."

Through "promise partnerships" with businesses, organizations, cities and school districts, the United Way of Salt Lake has established neighborhood centers in Clearfield, Kearns, Park City, Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake and West Valley City. Thanks to the recent influx of funding, it was announced Wednesday that Midvale and its Title I schools, which have high enrollments of low-income students, will join that group.

The neighborhood centers function as a support network for entire families, according to the United Way of Salt Lake. Their main focus is on education, but programs also address financial stability, health and basic needs.

"We have a five-year plan that takes us through 2016," Bayle said. "This is phase one and we will continue to work to raise the resources that we need to be successful."