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Wood River Women’s Foundation Steps Up to the Tune of $270,000
Sunday, August 12, 2018


Jo Murray had no idea that crashing into a tree while skiing would one day lead to something far beyond an ambulance ride to a Boise trauma center.

Unable to catch a medical helicopter to the hospital due to stormy weather, she rode in the ambulance while medical personnel manually pumped oxygen into her lungs for three and a half hours.

A few years later Murray reciprocated when the Wood River Women’s Foundation that she co-founded with Barbara Thrasher donated automated resuscitators to local emergency services.

“They saved her life, and the Wood River Women’s Foundation was able to give back,” said Murray’s husband Chuck Abramo. “That’s why I’ve taken part in the annual grant giving luncheon every year for 13 years. They give money to really good causes--I love what they’ve done for the community.”

“The Wood River Women’s Foundation is a place where females can really make a big difference,” agreed Marsha Ingham, a foundation member. “And it’s un too, with all these fabulous women.”

About 300 foundation members and guests took part in the WRWF Grants Celebration and Annual Meeting held this week on the lawn of Sun Valley Resort’s Trail Creek Cabin.

President Peggy Grove noted that Penny Weiss had decorated each table with sparkling sequined shoes representing the way women in the organization had stepped up to take on leadership roles and serve their community and the way those in nonprofit organization have stepped up to make the community a better place.

“Wow! I’m thrilled,” she said, as she looked around at all the happy faces.

The women sipped champagne and waved at two drones up in the sky taking their picture, then got down to the business of awarding money over salad topped with grilled chicken.

At 350 members, the group is one of the largest collective giving organizations in the country, even though the community is small.

Seventy of those women reviewed requests from 32 applicants this year, said Lynn Heidel and Gina Wolcott. They eventually awarded the $270,000 the women had pooled to 16 nonprofits.

And the cap on the amount of donations will increase from $25,000 to $35,000 in the coming year, Wolcott said, as the audience erupted in cheers. The grant season will start in October 2018 with application instructions going up on the Wood River Women’s Foundation website Sept. 1.

Community Library Director Jenny Emery Davidson just happened to be director of College of Southern Idaho when it received one of the Foundation’s early grants to purchase microscopes.

Jo Murray recounted how coincidentally she had encountered one of the students who had used those microscopes when she went for a blood test earlier that morning.

This week Davidson thanked the women for their part in helping to provide state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment for the library’s expanded lecture hall.

More than 800 people have come together in the first two weeks it’s been open to listen to Pulitzer prize winner Adam Johnson recount his experiences in North Korea and hear former U.S. Navy Secretary John Lehman talk about how the Navy helped end the Cold War.

“We need occasions to come together in what we like to think of as the community’s living room,” she said.”You’re helping the library to become a way to have community come together.”

Kristy Heitzman, whose Blaine County Education Foundation was  a 2016 and 2017 recipient, recounted how her program’s Can Do Fund  now serves 500 financially challenged students a year with money for athlete insurance and even clothes.

The number of Back to School Backpacks the foundation hands out has grown from 100 to 300.

The foundation has provided money to send students to robotics competitions and business conferences. It’s helped fund a study skills club, a middle school book club and even provide an innovation grant to a physics teacher whose class wanted to determine the survival rate of a car crash.

Crisis Hotline, will use its 2018 grant to expand teen suicide awareness and prevention for middle school and high school students, said Emily Zell, the hotline’s new director of development.

The crisis line now fields 7,500 calls a year with the help of 20 volunteers.

“We are small but calls have doubled in the last year, with people seeking help and resources,” she said. It’s a combination of more people finding out about us and more need, which won’t go away unfortunately.

Here’s a look at this year’s donations and their projects:  

  • $25,000 to Community library to replace out-of-date and unreliable audiovisual equipment in the lecture hall, which serves more than 5,000 people annually. The library was able to apply the foundation’s grant towards a matching grant of $25,000 for the project, which cost $225,000.
  • Flourish Foundation, $25,000 to expand its mindfulness program, which addresses social and emotional skills for Wood River Valley students.
  • Idaho Trails Association, $13,800 for a week-long trail maintenance program involving youngsters along Apollo Creek off of Baker Creek Road 15 miles north of Ketchum.
  • Lava Lake Institute for Science and Conservation, $23,120 for a program that Kathleen Bean says proves wolves and sheep can coexist with the help of non-lethal methods. The program is designed to become a model for the state of Idaho with a goal of replicating it elsewhere.
  • Swiftsure Ranch Therapeutic Equestrian Center, $19,300 to purchase something that resembles a Zamboni to groom the arena for smooth footing. The time the machinery saves will enable the ranch to provide lessons for at least 30 more riders a week, said board member Ann Leonardo.
  • Crisis Hotline,$25,000 for its teen suicide awareness and prevention for middle school and high school students and capacity building.
  • Blaine County Recreation District, $25,000 to aid in the expansion of its aquatic center with a whirlpool and more.
  • Senior Connection--$25,000 for a bathroom that will feature a raised toilet seat, telephone and other features to accommodate those with mobility issues and caregivers assisting spouses.
  • Wood River Community YMCA’s Power Scholars Academy, $25,000 to increase literary and math skills and strengthen confidence for 120 at-risk students between the ages of 6 and 8 so they don’t lose academic skills over summer.
  • Family Health Service, $25,000 to provide locals an affordable primary health care clinic in Bellevue so they don’t have to drive to Twin Falls and Jerome.
  • Hailey Ice--$1,158 to provide 2,500 free or reduced ice sessions for free family skate nights and nonprofit organizations.
  • Higher Ground, $9,700 for a new program teaching children with cognitive disabilities how to swim and their parents additional skills for dealing with challenged children.
  • Lee Pesky Learning Center, $7,500 for an online college transition program for high school students with learning challenges.
  • Little Wood River Public Library in Carey, $9,000 to paint the building and purchase air conditioning units (something that came just in the nick of time with temperatures climbing into the 90s this week!)
  • The Spot Sun Valley, $10,000 to mentor teenagers in everything from lighting to other aspects of putting on a play as they stage “Pippen” next winter.
  • Wood River Middle School Outdoor Adventure Program, $10,000 to help at-risk students experience outdoor Idaho.


Governance Chair Gail Landis told women that 108 women stepped up to donate $547,000 gifts to the endowment fund launched during last year’s annual meeting. The fund  has since grown to $590,000.

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