The Arizona Giving Challenge: matching needs with philanthropists


by Jay Crandall

Posted on October 18, 2012 at 6:46 PM

GILBERT, Ariz. -- A call for help as Arizona gets ready for a big event bringing together those in need and those with a hand and heart to share.

It is the Arizona Giving Challenge, and as you can probably tell it all starts with giving, something Colleen Walski knows all about.

When Walski lost her son Scott, that new perspective, led her to give.

“I think when you are faced with a situation that tragic or not, however it happens to hit you in your life, it forces you to step back and gain a different perspective on things," said Walski.

To keep her son's spirit, and his love of children, alive she began giving to the Christmas Angel program, but, she says her foundation, Scott Helping Children, has now grown, evolving to teach children the value of giving and service.

“Those kids all connected, some of them through the loss of their schoolmates, connections through very personal experiences.”

And it was some of those children, who led Walski to Lauren's Institute for Education.

Co-founder Margaret Travillion explains their mission, “We are an all inclusive pediatric therapy center  and private school for children with special needs.”

Carrie Reed wanted the best for her daughter Lauren, who has Sanfilippo Syndrome. And she along with provider and therapist, Travillion, found the best way to give that was by giving to other children as well.

Together they opened Lauren’s Institute five years ago.

“I wanted a facility that had everything possible in know that I felt like these children deserved to have the very best, “ said Travillion. “And we need to give it to them.”

That passion, inspired Walski, who stepped in with art projects and field trips, Travillion tells how much that has meant.

Walski's passion is is also guiding Velda Wood.

Wood's nephew,  Zach, already diagnosed with fragile X syndrome, is now battling leukemia. Wood says it has all been a whirlwind of emotion trying to know where to turn for help,

“They live in Snowflake, Arizona so his mom had to quit her job, because they spend the majority of their time down here doing treatment, then they have two other children and a husband up a home."

Wood's search for help, has challenged Walski yet again.

She has organized a three day event, The Arizona Giving Challenge.

Walski says it will bring together non-profits and those willing to give, all under one tent.

“The event itself, again it's not about one organization, this is about the community, the state of Arizona people stepping forward to get involved,“ explains Walski.

But to pull that off, Walski says they need sponsors to pitch in to keep a circle of giving and growing,

“When you live in that space, when you watch what happens, it comes back above and beyond what you can ever imagine.”

The AZ Giving Challenge will be held Nov. 30 to Dec. 2.

To get involved visit

Walski says corporate sponsors willing to help in any capacity are greatly appreciated.