Valley Elementary Educational Foundation  
Raising money to enrich the educational experience so every child at Valley can succeed

OUR Founders

The Birth of a Foundation

The year 2006, just six short years ago, was the year of the social network — MySpace, YouTube, FlickR and Facebook. That was the year that Apple announced its now iconic iPhone and was the year entire cities, including San Francisco and Philadelphia, went wireless. It was also when Google purchased YouTube for a whopping $1.65 billion and when the word “Google” was officially recognized as a verb in the Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.

That was also the year that Sue Smith, then principal at Valley Elementary School, was trying desperately to find a way to upgrade her computer lab. While technology was exploding around the nation and the world, here at Valley students did their work using a run-down collection of computers. Those that weren’t broken were embarrassingly outdated. Only two had working keyboards. The district couldn’t provide the resources she needed. The school community couldn’t raise the money on its own. But her students needed computers. Many couldn’t afford to have one at home — so access at school was crucial.

Her best hope? Three parents who had a vision and a plan.

Mike Christensen
Mike Christensen

Parents Mike Christensen, Stephen Fazen and Meri Lopez established the Valley Elementary Educational Foundation in 2006. Their plan was to reach out to corporations and other donors in the outside community.

Christensen, who served as the Foundation’s president in 2009-10, says it was at one of their first meetings that the idea of a Trail Run was discussed. The founders’ aspirations weren’t overly grand — they thought maybe they’d bring in $5,000. The following spring, on May 5, 2007, the Cinco de Mayo Trail Run was brought to life and raised $12,000.

“Our focus was on new PE equipment, art supplies and technology,” says Fazen, who served as the Foundation’s president from 2006 to 2009. “The need was there because the PTA had been asked to pick up many of these programs in the absence of a Foundation, but the national PTA bylaws are just not set up to perform this function very well.”

Fazen says he’s proud to see how the Foundation has flourished.

“We had a great core group of parents that were willing to spend the time and effort to get this Foundation off the ground,” says Fazen, a father of five. “Then additional parents joined and ran with it. I’m glad it’s running so well.”

Today, with the help of hundreds of volunteers, sponsors, exibitors and benefactors, as well as nearly 1,000 runners, the Trail Run generates between $20,000 and $25,000 each year.

“We had to do a lot of work to get people to understand what a foundation is and that the concept could work at Valley,” says Christensen, also a father of five, whose children now attend Tierra Bonita Elementary. “Now, the Foundation is accepted and has become an integrated part of the culture.”

Christensen says he’s amazed at what the Foundation has accomplished in such a short amount of time.

FazenStephen Fazen
“There’s a great feeling of pride about the Trail Run — something we started from nothing,” he says. “It’s fun to think back on all the books we were able to buy for the library and all the technology we brought to the school.”

That’s just the beginning. Our story started with three parents, but each year it’s fueled by the energy of new parents.

“I know we made a difference and I just hope that other parents out there will keep it going — that they’ll recognize they they too can make a difference,” Christensen says. “We’re not only helping our own sons or daughters, but hundreds of other students who need whatever help we can offer.”

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