In December of 1977, Dr. Walter C. Swanson created a charitable trust known as the “Dr. W. C. Swanson Family Foundation.” In the early days “Doc” and his administrative committee would sit around the kitchen table with about $15,000 available for cash grants to fund local programs. Doc was a shrewd businessman and, through wise investment decisions, the corpus of the trust grew, thus allowing for more funding available for grants.
In 1990, Dr. Swanson passed away and his son, “Chuck,” took over as CEO and Chairman of the Board. Shortly thereafter, the Foundation developed its bona fides and a staff was hired and a board of directors was established.
In 1996 Chuck took his first trip to Chile with “Interplast,” an organization that orchestrated surgical missions to repair cleft lips and palates. That trip forever changed his life and that of the Foundation. That same year, Chuck introduced filmmakers from Denver to the staff at Interplast with the idea of traveling to Vietnam to produce a documentary about Interplast’s work there. That film came to fruition and was awarded the Academy Award for Best Documentary – Short Subject on March 23, 1997.
Through colleagues, Chuck visited Mongolia in 1999 to determine if the Foundation could assist with the medical system there. As a result, the Foundation began partnering with local hospitals and the U.S. government to acquire medical equipment and supplies. In 2000, a country director was hired and in 2001 the Foundation was granted NGO status and an office was established in Ulaanbaatar. For 14 years the Foundation concentrated its efforts to change the medical landscape in Mongolia. Those efforts were successful in not only bringing services up to par, but by also bringing laparoscopic surgery to that nation.
Since the beginning, the Swanson Foundation has been committed to improving education, law enforcement, social services, the arts, and many other venues locally over the years. In addition, it developed its own programs – from a beef warehouse, to “Starting Over Kits,” to the “Rainbow Express,” among others. It continues to devote most of its resources to unsolicited and internal projects.
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