Thunderbirds Charities Donates $1 Million to Special Olympics Arizona, More Than $3.1 Million to Other Valley Charities During Spring Funding Cycle

Thunderbirds Charities, the charitable giving arm of The Thunderbirds – hosts of the Waste Management Phoenix Open Presented by The Ak-Chin Indian Community – awarded more than $3.1 million in grants to 51 Valley charities during its 2018 spring funding cycle – including a record one-time donation of $1 million to Special Olympics Arizona for its new State Competitions Distribution and Training Center. Additionally, Thunderbirds Charities awarded grants of more than $100,000 to six Valley Charities; including $300,000 to St. Mary’s Food Bank, $200,000 to Child Crisis Arizona, $150,000 to Homeward Bound, $100,000 to Fresh Start Women’s Foundation and $100,000 to Friendly House.

While the spring funding cycle is in the books, Thunderbirds Charities has announced that its 2018 fall funding cycle is now open. Information about the fall funding cycle can be found at HERE.

“Without a doubt, giving back to our communities is the most rewarding thing about what we do as tournament hosts,” said Carlos Sugich, President of Thunderbirds Charities.  “We’re thrilled and so proud to give these grants to deserving organizations around the Valley. It’s an honor to see where all the money goes from the WM Phoenix Open and how it impacts those in need in our community.

The $1 million donation to Special Olympics Arizona helped create a new Distribution and Training Center which allows SOAZ the opportunity to serve even more individuals with disabilities across the state, ultimately expanding the number of athletes reached while creating more teams and enhanced competitions for SOAZ athletes.

“We are honored to receive this momentous donation from Thunderbirds Charities for the new Special Olympics Arizona Distribution Center,” said Jamie Heckerman, Interim Chief Executive Officer of Special Olympics Arizona. “This donation will allow us to build a one-of-a-kind facility, which is a necessary component to our rapid growth as an organization and will be instrumental in allowing Special Olympics Arizona to better serve the community.”

The $200,000 donation to Child Crisis Arizona went toward its Head Start Expansion Renovation Project, which included a remodel of its Mesa facility to house two additional classroom spaces for 40 children, as well as child-sized bathrooms and additional Head Start staff offices.

“We could not be more thankful to Thunderbird Charities for their ongoing support,” said Child Crisis Arizona Chief Executive Officer Torrie Taj. “Their generous gift is allowing us to expand our education programs, and provide valuable services to families, many of whom lack access to quality early childhood education and parenting resources.”

The $150,000 grant to Homeward Bound went to Empowering Homeless Families with Children, a project that not only provides housing, but also offers parents access to financial resources and the ability to emotionally support and advocate for their children, while the children receive high-quality education and enrichment experiences.

“I continue to feel astonished by the generosity and commitment of The Thunderbirds to our children,” said Homeward Bound President & CEO Becky Jackson. “We get the pleasure of seeing the transformation first-hand, and know that each day, they are breaking the cycle of poverty, and learning to thrive. We are truly inspired by Thunderbird Charities.”

Additional grants awarded from the spring 2018 cycle:

About Care$25,000Volunteer Management Program Expansion
Arizona Council on Economic Education$35,000Economics for Everyday Living II
Arizona Foundation for the Handicapped$30,000PAES System
Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation$20,000Extracurricular Activities
Arizona Science Center$80,000CREATE on Wheels
Assistance League of East Valley Arizona$20,000Operation School Belt
Be a Leader Foundation$50,000PIPELINE of College-Going Programs and Matriculation Services
Bridging AZ furniture Bank$5,000Veterans Furniture Project – Safe Equipment
Central Arizona Dental Society Foundation$20,000Arizona Dental Mission of Mercy (AZMOM)
Child Crisis Arizona$200,000Head Start Expansion – Renovation Project
Duet: Partners in Health & Aging$10,000Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
East Valley Senior Services$15,000Independent Living Volunteer Services
Educare Arizona$20,000Early Education Extended Day Program
Elevate Phoenix$50,000Discover Your Success Vans
Empact-Suicide Prevention Center$55,000Trauma Healing Services – Therapy Advocacy
Esperanca$25,000Literacy Programs

Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona

$25,000Programs for Children
Fresh Start Women’s Foundation$100,000Program Expansion
Friendly House$100,000Occupational Training Workforce Readiness
Friendship Foundation “Glencroft Wellness Center”$10,000Pool Lift and Equipment
Furnishing Dignity$10,000Essential Home Furnishings
Genesis City$50,000Trailblazer Program
Higher Octane Healing$10,000Social Connections
Homeless ID Project$80,000Securing Lost/Stolen ID for the Homeless
Homeless Youth Connection$50,000Empowering Youth for the Future
Homeward Bound$150,000Empowering Homeless Families with Children
Honor House$25,000Operation Healing Journey
Hunkapi Programs$25,000Covered Riding Arena
ICAN: Positive Programs for Youth$25,000Youth Development Program

Jumpstart for Young Children “Jumpstart AZ”

$15,000Workforce Development Program
Junior Achievement of Arizona$15,000New Computers for JA Biz Town
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation$25,000JDRF Community Outreach Program
 K2 Adventures Foundation$5,000K2 Programs for Youth
Maggies Place$40,000Family Resource Center Services
Maricopa Health Foundation$50,000Bridging the Mariposa Wings to Safety and the Refugee Women’s Health Clinic Programs
MentorKids USA$10,000Student Success Program
Military Assistance Mission$50,000Basic Life Needs and Support
Muscular Dystrophy Association$10,000MDA AZCare Centers
Musical Instrument Museum$50,000A World of Musical Journeys
notMYkid$30,000Amplif(i) Program for BGC

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

$20,000AZ Wolf Trap Early Education Arts Program
Soldiers Best Friend$15,000Service/Therapeutic Companion Dog Program
Southwest Human Development$50,000Children’s Clinic/Good Fit A/V Project
Special Olympics Arizona$1,000,0002018 State Competitions/New Distribution and Training Center
St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance$300,000Rural Arizona School Pantry Program Expansion
Stand for Children “Arizona” Leadership Center$15,000Family Engagement
Stepping Up for Seniors$10,000Medical Assistance
Step-Student Expedition Program$15,000STEP Phoenix College Prep Workshops
Treasures 4 Teachers$30,000T4T Wheels
United for Change$10,000Veterans Furniture Center
Waste Not$30,000Refrigerated Truck



Thunderbirds Charities is a non-profit organization formed in 1986 to distribute monies raised through the Waste Management Phoenix Open golf tournament. The Thunderbirds Charities Board consists of 15 board members from varying professional backgrounds. The mission of Thunderbirds Charities is to assist children and families, help people in need and improve the quality of life in our communities. The organization’s giving is directed toward organizations based or with a significant presence in Arizona. The Thunderbirds were founded in 1937 with the mission of promoting the Valley of the Sun through sports. The Thunderbirds consist of 55 “active” members and more than 280 “life” members. For more information on the Thunderbirds, please visit,

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