When Valley real estate investor Loren Howard first became involved with The Challenge Foundation, a local nonprofit that awards tuition scholarships and individualized support services to low-income students, he served as a mentor.
Then, Howard met Braden Hudye, a Valley business man who also runs a charity organization in Canada, and they became fast friends. Three years ago, the duo founded a similar organization called Valley Guardians that holds invitation-only fundraising events to benefit Valley children in need of a financial helping hand. Through their fundraising efforts, Valley Guardians generously supports the Challenge Foundation. Both men are Challenge Foundation mentors.
Q: How does Valley Guardians work?
A: Braden – We realize our strength with Valley Guardians is to bring a network of likeminded people together, have the right venue for the event and have the right board structure so that board members cover all the overhead costs ensuring that every single dollar we raise goes straight back to the charity. A lot of charities are out there covering their costs and spending lots of time trying to garner sponsorships. We have the board pay for the fundraising event and we take 100 percent of the proceeds and find organizations that have the same kinds of values that we do, the Challenge Foundation being one of them.
Q: What inspires you to volunteer?
A: Loren – I grew up in a single parent mom home and I wasn’t in as bad shape as some of the kids we’re supporting. I had so many mentors growing up because my dad wasn’t around. They made a huge, lasting impact in my life that was positive. I understand what it feels like to be in those shoes. For me, it’s all about paying it forward.
A: Braden – I’ve been involved in philanthropy almost all my life. I think we have a social responsibility to give back, especially to kids. Whether we’ve been through hard times or not growing up, we’re fortunate to be where we are and it should be a responsibility of everyone to give back in some way whether it’s volunteer time or financially or whatever way you can contribute.
Q: Can you tell me about a mentoring moment that stands out?
A: Loren – My (mentee) is in 7th grade now and he was getting resentful toward his parents about the position the family is in because he’s been hanging out with all the rich kids at school. He didn’t know how to deal with it, so I took him out and talked to him. I’m pretty successful and he thought I came from that kind of background, so I shared with him my story about moving to Arizona and living in a one-bedroom apartment with my mom and brother. I started hanging out with kids at school whose families had money and I’d want my mom to drop me off two blocks away from school because of the beat up car she drove. I think that helped (my mentee) because it humanized me to him and allowed him to see that when you get older you realize that life isn’t about status or possessions, it’s about relationships.
Q: How are some of the families affected by your assistance?
A: Braden – When you have a family that’s not sure how they’re going to be able to cover their monthly electric bills and get school supplies and then one of the children gets sick and the bills start coming in, it impacts the whole family. You’re giving them an opportunity to work through that and help them through the challenges.
For more information, visit valleyguardians.com.
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