story by Kim Souza
The Walton Family Foundation is a major economic engine in its own right, providing more than $34 million in grant funding last year to dozens of local charities, educational efforts and other ventures to improve quality of life in Northwest Arkansas.
In 2013, the Walton Family Foundation invested more than $325 million across the globe in the areas of K-12 education reform, water conservation and improving the quality of life at home. That support went to more than 1,700 initiatives around the world, according to the foundation's annual report.
“The Walton Family members carried forward a philanthropic approach of sustained and focused giving, believing that it is the key to achieving lasting change, and they continue to challenge the foundation to find new, innovative solutions as well as measure impact from the individual grant level to the effectiveness of overall strategies,” noted Buddy Philpot, executive director of the foundation.
Two of the largest local projects underway because of major Walton Family Foundation funding are the Amazeum, a family learning center and children’s museum in Bentonville, and the Razorback Greenway, a 37-mile trail that connects Lake Bella Vista to Fayetteville.
The foundation gave the Amazeum a $10 million matching challenge grant that was met in short order thanks to sizeable contributions from Walmart Stores Foundations, General Mills, The Hershey Company, Nickelodeon, the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Trust and Johnelle Hunt. Shelley and Doug McMillon – Doug now serves as Wal-Mart Stores CEO – were the latest major donors to this project.
Amazeum is close to its $28.6 million goal, with less than $6 million needed as of an April 17 report. The hands-on children’s museum is slated to open in 2015.
The Razorback Greenway was the vision of Walton Family Foundation, who anted up $15 million to match a federal grant received in 2010 to design and construct the 37-mile off road trail linking six cities in Benton and Washington counties. A survey completed by the foundation in 2012 indicated that trail system was used by 63% of the residents, Crystal Bridges was the second most used foundation supported amenity at 42%. The Jones Center and Walton Arts Center ranked close as the third and fourth most used amenities at 41% and 40%, respectively.
In 2013, The Jones Trust received a $1 million matching grant from the Walton Family Foundation and the Jones Center received another $20,000 in grants. The Walton Art Center received grants totaling $3.35 million from the foundation last year.
Other area recipients receiving large grants from the Walton Family Foundation in 2013, include:
• Camp War Eagle: $5.341 million
• Endeavor Foundation: $5.896 million
• NWA Regional Planning Commission: $4.867 million
• Walmart Associates in Critical Need Fund: $4 million
• Razorback Foundation: $2.007 million
• Bentonville Child Care Development Center: $787,487
• University of Arkansas Foundation: $519,508
The Walton Family also supports investment in downtown communities giving more than $1.98 million to area towns and cities for individual projects. Siloam Springs, Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers, Springdale, Pea Ridge, Elkins and Farmington are among the local cities receiving funding from the Walton Family Foundation in 2013.
Philpot notes that the successes of the Walton Family Foundation investments “continue to inspire us to carry forward Sam and Helen Walton's vision for creating opportunity so that individuals and communities can live better in today's world.”