‘I Wanted To Do Something In His Name’
How a Brainerd family partnered with the Initiative Foundation to fund a lasting legacy to their young son.
By Lisa Meyers McClintick | Photography by John Linn
When an avalanche thundered down Taos Ski Valley’s Kachina Peak on Jan. 17, 2019, the Minnesota family of Corey Borg-Massanari had little time to process the disaster.
Borg-Massanari, 22, and a graduate of Brainerd High School, moved to Vail, Colo., in 2016 to live with his dad, Mark Massanari. While there, he attended Colorado Mountain College and pursued his passion for skiing. He was on vacation in Taos with friends when an avalanche hit him at more than 70 mph as he carved down an expert -rated run.
Doctors said Borg-Massanari had no broken bones, bruises or abrasions from being buried under snow that felt like concrete to rescue teams scrambling to find him.
Deprived of oxygen, Borg-Massanari was rushed to the University of New Mexico hospital until his family could be with him. He ultimately died as a result of his injuries. The family worked with an organ donor team and, a few days later, doctors and nurses and other staffers lined up for a Walk of Honor as Borg-Massanari was wheeled into an operating room escorted by his parents, Bobbie and Mark, his sister, Karlee, his grandparents and an uncle. His heart, liver, kidneys, eyes and tissues went to help others live.
“That was the worst moment of my life,” said his mom, Bobbie Gorron of Brainerd, of the poignant Walk of Honor, which made national news.
Support came from the Taos Ski Valley resort, the Patagonia store in Vail where Corey worked in the winter, Zip Adventures where he worked in the summer and from other donors around the country. Gorron said that’s when she realized she wanted to start a charitable fund that reflected her son’s passions.
“Once we knew Corey was not going to survive, instantly I had this fear of people forgetting him,” said Gorron. “I wanted to do something in his name. I want his memory to live on.”
After taking time to grieve and to think through their options, Gorron and other family members chose the Initiative Foundation to manage donations and to set up the Corey Borg-Massanari Foundation in November 2020. Taos Ski Valley offered to match donations up to $30,000.
The family will advise the fund, one of nearly 130 Initiative Foundation-managed Partner Funds, and will award grants in line with Borg-Massanari’s love of the outdoors and his dog, Abu. Inspired by meeting the ski patroller and rescue dog who found their son, the family’s first grants will go toward an avalanche rescue dog at Taos Ski Valley this year and Vail in 2022. They also plan to fund outdoor class needs at Brainerd High School.
After hearing about the Initiative Foundation from a friend and talking to Kate Bjorge, the Initiative Foundation’s community philanthropy manager, “we knew that the Initiative Foundation was the perfect place for us,” Gorron said. “She gave us so much information and different ideas on ways to set the fund up. We could not have imagined doing all of this on our own. We cannot even tell you how thankful we are for Kate and everyone at the Initiative Foundation.”
A VARIETY OF INTERESTS
The Initiative Foundation set up six new Partner Funds in 2020 for families and groups who wanted an ongoing way to help their communities and favorite causes. The Initiative Foundation invests and manages the funds. It also provides back-office support that includes creating an online giving platform; setting up the application process for grants; and managing bookkeeping, tax forms, donor receipts and other administrative work. Support from the Initiative Foundation allows a fund’s creators and advisory boards to focus on fundraising and making grants.
Starting a Partner Fund usually requires an initial gift of at least $20,000. Funds established as endowed or quasi-endowed typically provide about a 5 percent payout each year, which can be used to provide grants. An average donor-advised fund is $250,000, which can generate $12,000 to $13,000 for grants each year.
Long-term performance on the Initiative Foundation’s investment portfolio is 9.59 percent and payouts average 5 percent. The difference, plus new contributions, helps grow the endowment. An agency fund with a $1 million endowment, for example, can expect an annual payout of about $50,000 in unrestricted funds indefinitely into the future.
“It’s really a seamless way to do charitable giving, and you can align your giving with your passions,” Bjorge said.
Many Initiative Foundation Partner Funds target a donor’s special interests. A fund can benefit a nonprofit organization such as an animal shelter, help support a cause like the Skolmate Fund for the welfare of animals in Central Minnesota or be donor-advised like the family-based Corey Borg-Massanari Foundation or the corporate-based Artesian Homes Charitable Fund. Funds also can be set up to do good for decades or more. An Initiative Foundation-hosted fund that honors the late Mark Wood, a longtime mentor to young people in Little Falls, has helped to provide close to 500 mentors for Little Falls and Randall-area kids since its inception in 2006.
“The Corey Borg Massanari Foundation came out of a tragedy,” Bjorge said. “It has been so powerful to be part of that process. It continues his legacy all over the country, which is really quite unique.”
HOW RELIEF FUNDS MADE A DIFFERENCE DURING COVID-19.
In 2020, the Initiative Foundation worked with nine community-based organizations to create COVID-19 relief and recovery funds.
The relief funds were created by area community foundations that could shift gears, raise money and quickly get grants out the door where they were most needed. The 2020 relief fund efforts helped to provide personal protective equipment for hospitals in Region Five (serving Crow Wing, Cass, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties) and technology grants to help kids access online learning resources. Other grants helped main street businesses stay afloat or provided resources to stock the region’s food shelves for those who had lost their income or were otherwise food insecure.
Having the expertise and structures in place helped the Initiative Foundation and its partners quickly create relief funds during peak times of need and wind them down as the urgency of the moment passed. “We were able to create these funds in short order—sometimes within 24 hours,” Bjorge said. “It was really amazing. That’s the power of collaboration and community partnerships.”