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Planned Giving and the Art of Paying it Forward

Philanthropy is the engine that powers the Reeve Foundation's mission: without the generosity of individuals and families compelled by the legacy of Christopher and Dana Reeve, the Foundation could not address the health and quality of life of people dealing with paralysis. This financial support is most common when donors are alive. In this article, we will visit three donor families whose generosity reaches into the future, beyond their own lifetimes.

John McConnell
John McConnell

John McConnell is a Reeve Foundation Board member; he heads up a committee to spur development and fund raising. You can't tell by looking at him but McConnell experienced a severe spinal cord injury after a bike crash. He recovered but the close call ignited in him the need to join the Reeve cause. "After I had my accident, I was reminded of the importance and need for resources and help; when you're part of a community you have to support people who can't do things on their own and who require time, commitment and money from those able to offer it."

McConnell offers his time and money to the Foundation; he raised thousands of dollars two years ago, for example, running the New York City Marathon, alongside Matthew Reeve. McConnell has also made plans to leave part of his estate to the Reeve Foundation.

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"My estate gift is through my life insurance, which is perhaps the most simple way to approach this. You aren't taking away from those you care about because often those funds are not typically available to anyone while you are alive.

"It can be a tough thing to talk about, death, but I've gotten close to it a few times. It's part of the deal. But people often wait too long or until the very end to deal with this issue. I find it liberating to deal with it now so in the event something were to happen, it would not burden my family.

"Estate planning or making a will doesn't have to be a complicated process. You hire professionals to do it. You know what your numbers are. I know what my children and my family need, and I know what others need. That's a part of it. If you are in a fairly good place, there is room to extend your giving for many years down the road.

"I feel that we have a responsibility when we are able to take care of ourselves, which most of us are, to give back and to pay forward.

"Ask yourself, how do you want to live your life? I know how I want to live mine. I want to be kind to people. I hope the world is better off because of my contribution. Since I have the opportunity, I will leave behind resources to help push ahead on issues that are important to me."

Gladys Field
Gladys Field

Gladys Field was a homemaker her entire life but when her husband Norman died in 1991 she took over the family finances. She had worked as a mathematician during World War II and seemed to have a knack for investments. Before she died in 2009 at 85, Gladys made arrangements to leave several legacy investments.

"My mother was a very bright woman," says Richard Field, one of four children. "When she became a widow she really took the reins with regard to the family's finances. She kept the family house until she had a stroke and then moved to an assisted living facility."

Gladys had managed her resources well. She made plans before her death to invest in several charities. "She looked long and hard at how to best disburse her funds," says Richard. While the Field family had no direct connection to spinal cord injury or to Christopher Reeve, Gladys set up a charitable annuity trust to make an annual gift to the Reeve Foundation for 10 years.

"My family was always drawn toward science and toward medical research and health," says Richard, who is executor of Gladys's charitable trust. "She was very careful to pick an organization to fund that was the most productive, most exciting, and most useful. She liked the fact that the Reeve Foundation was working toward medical cures, but also that the organization addressed the care side too."

Richard said that when his mother made up her mind, she was living in an assisted care facility, and appreciated how quality of life was directly affected by the quality of her care; this too resonated with her commitment to the Reeve Foundation.

"As a family we are very pleased my mother was able to make a contribution to the Reeve Foundation. We see good things there and trust the money will be used wisely," said Richard.

Bill Day
Bill Day

Bill Day recently retired from a long career in computer programming at Lexmark. He and his wife have grown children and a six-year old grandson who is the light of their lives.

Day joined the spinal cord community 22 years ago after falling from a roof. He remained active in family and business ­affairs and has been recognized for his community service. Day was attracted to the Reeve Foundation many years ago; its mission was his mission. After years of making annual gifts through the Reeve ­direct mail program, Day wanted to do more; he updated his will to include the Foundation in his estate plans.

"We're in good shape for our retirement," Day said, "and I have always considered myself fortunate. I want to give back, not only now but also beyond my lifetime."

Each of these donors, leaving legacies through diverse giving vehicles, has been welcomed as a member of the Reeve Foundation's Michael A. Hughes Planned Giving Society, an esteemed circle of friends who have made generous commitments to include the Foundation in their estate plans.

For more information about how you can leave a lasting legacy in support of the Reeve Foundation's mission, please contact the Director of Development, at 800- 225-0292.

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Continue Christopher Reeve's LegacyPhoto by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders