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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Editorials Editorials (November 28, 2001)

The Holiday Fund: a The Holiday Fund: a (November 28, 2001)special kind of patriotism

Giving locally to assist others in our own community provides a unique warmth, both directions

Hard times during an "economic slump" can mean desperate times for some individuals and families who, often through no fault of their own, find themselves at the end of their resources and wits.

But an economic downturn can also mean desperate times for the many nonprofit organizations that provide front-line assistance to those who need help -- help that can make a real difference to our neighbors in difficulty, including many families with children.

Judging from early queries, organizations are feeling a high level of need this year, caught between reduced donations and increased requests for aid.

With major matching funds from area foundations, the Palo Alto Weekly's annual Holiday Fund drive helps bridge the gap between need and available resources, focusing on the nonprofits that provide the services. Last year, the fund surpassed $300,000, a record amount, and this year we hope do even better. The funds are disbursed through grants to local organizations, announced in the spring.

In just 10 days, the fund has reached $55,400 -- half from 115 donors and half from matching funds, principally from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

But the matching funds are just one way donors can get the biggest impact from their gifts. The other is that the Weekly absorbs all the costs of raising the funds -- so 100 percent of your dollars go back into the community, with nothing taken off the top for overhead costs.

The burst of giving that followed the calamities of Sept. 11 is a touching reminder of the inherent generosity of Americans. Giving locally, especially when the shine is off the economy, is an even truer test of patriotism at a hometown level.

Help us make this year's Holiday Fund deliver a strong message of support for our nonprofit groups serving families and children. Send in your tax-deductible contribution by using the mail-in coupon on page 18 in today's paper.

Betty Wright: a lifetime Betty Wright: a lifetime (November 28, 2001)of assisting the disabled

The passing of Betty Wright last week in her 91st year marks the end of a lifetime of caring for the needs of others -- specifically those with disabilities, who often need help the most.

Wright fought for them with intelligence, zeal, determination and sometimes a feisty tongue.

"Just because you've lost the use of your legs doesn't mean you've lost your intelligence or your tongue," she said in a 1996 interview, on how some people talk down to those with impaired mobility. On her own serious health problems of recent years, she said, with a hearty laugh, "But my mouth still works, and I use it."

Wright has been involved with those with special needs since she was a child, when she accompanied her mother to do volunteer work at Oakland Children's Hospital -- retrieving cloth balls for children who loved throwing them but couldn't go get them.

Precisely a half century ago, Wright founded a swim center for children in Barron Park -- including teaching disabled youngsters. She learned that no one else was doing that, and expanded the program.

"I just got bitten," she said. "To me it's fun and exciting. The most exciting thing ... is you're holding this little body in the pool, blowing bubbles -- and all of a sudden this little body lifts off your hands and is swimming. That's the greatest feeling in the world."

Working with the Community Association for Rehabilitation (CAR) of Palo Alto, Wright designed a special pool to help with rehabilitation for persons who are developmentally or physically disabled, autistic, arthritic or post-stroke, among others -- with full wheelchair access and relaxing background music. The Betty Wright Swim Center at CAR was later named in her honor.

For more than two decades, and despite increasingly painful health conditions, she taught a class at Stanford University, focusing on the difficulties faced by many disabled persons -- on the isolation and non-acceptance that too often separates them from society.

Hers was a life of caring and courage that directly enriched the lives of thousands of those with special challenges, and of uncounted others for whom she was an inspiration. She was one who made our community a brighter, kinder place.


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