Business and philanthropic leaders from Seattle and the greater Eastside came together on March 24, in record-breaking support of some of the most fragile, vulnerable members of the community.
Attendees of Kindering’s 24th annual Auction Gala raised more than $1 million to bolster the nonprofit’s mission to provide life-changing early intervention therapies and special education to infants and toddlers with an array of developmental disabilities, delays and other risk factors.
Kindering is the Pacific Northwest’s most comprehensive neurodevelopmental center, providing a variety of services to little ones and families in need, regardless of ability to pay. These range from inclusive preschool programming and speech, feeding and motor therapies to supporting young children experiencing homelessness or living in foster and kindship care.
This year’s gala raised unprecedented funding – nearly doubling the organization’s previous record at last year’s event. This year is unique for Kindering in more ways than one: 2018 marks Mimi Siegel’s 40th and final year as the agency’s executive director.
The event celebrated a four-decade legacy of the inventive, community-first approach that has enabled Siegel to transform Kindering from a five-staff operation working from a one-room schoolhouse to the region’s preeminent center of its kind, with campuses in Bellevue, Bothell and Renton, and a staff of 200.
“We worked out of one room … we had one educator, two therapists, and eight families. We could have all fit around one of these dinner tables,” said Siegel during the event.
She recalled how the landscape has changed during her tenure, from the predominant conditions and diagnoses that marked each decade, to the region’s growth and changing demographics. Today, Kindering serves 4,500 families each year speaking more than 90 languages.
The evening’s speakers lauded Siegel as a visionary, and attributed the organization’s evolution to her adaptability, inquisitive nature, and a persistent, singular focus on Kindering’s mission. But to Siegel, it’s more than a mission; it’s a promise, and she considers it a community imperative. “We must never forget the promise of our children. And we must never forget our promise to our children,” says Siegel.
To meet community need that is growing and ever urgent – 85 percent of brain development occurs by age 3 – Kindering has launched toward an ambitious goal of serving 10,000 families annually by the year 2022.
As a catalyst for these efforts and a tribute to Siegel’s pioneering nature, gala attendees rallied behind the creation of the Mimi Siegel Innovation Fund (to the tune of nearly $700,000), in support of critical investments in technology, staff development and continued program excellence.