It started with a question while I was on the way to the airport last summer. Just before I was about to board an airplane my father asked, “Do you have a will?” I looked at him and said, “Why are you asking me this NOW when I am about to get on a plane?” He reminded me that I really needed to take action and face the issue of mortality so I can prepare my final wishes as I want them to be.

Shortly after my vacation, I went to a trust and estate attorney and left the meeting feeling unsettled. I took a long pause to think about what I wanted to do and what was most important to me. Sure I could leave whatever monetary and material possessions that would remain to family and friends, but I felt a stronger pull to truly create a legacy. I just didn’t know exactly how to do that.

Stepping back in time, about 17 years ago, my path took an interesting turn. I was working for my father in the family business and dealing with the shocking news that my mother had breast cancer. (Thankfully, she is a thriving survivor.) Once she got past her treatment, I wanted to do something to give back and I wanted to find resources to eradicate this disease. Then, the idea came to me while sitting in traffic. I saw a specialty license plate on the car in front of me and asked myself, “Why isn’t there a specialty plate in Florida to help benefit breast cancer research and education?” I took it as my calling to make one happen. Two years later, “End Breast Cancer” became Florida’s first medical specialty plate. That’s when my work shifted to the nonprofit world. I was hired to help implement the “Stop Heart Disease” specialty license plate, which benefits the Florida Heart Research Foundation, Inc. I also helped create the “Lauren’s Kids” specialty plate, which raises funds and awareness to prevent child abuse.

I have had a front row seat in learning the challenges Greater Miami’s nonprofit organizations face. I have also gained a clear sense of the vast array of people’s needs within our community. For me, I am most passionate about children, who I believe are the most innocent and vulnerable.

This passion, along with that unsettling feeling I had when I left the trust and estate attorney’s office, challenged me to delve deeper into how I wanted to make a difference and leave some kind of legacy. I had no doubt that I wanted to structure support to help children through planned giving. I also knew that I wanted to help in MANY different causes related to the well-being of kids. I began the journey to figure out how I could do this and be comfortable knowing my wishes would be implemented.

It was when I received an email from The Miami Foundation about their Give Miami Day that the light bulb went off in my head. I worked with them in the past through nonprofits and I knew of their contributions in our community. I decided to set up a meeting and see if this may be the right fit for my vision. After meeting with Javier and Janell, I knew this was the perfect organization to structure my planned giving strategy. I opened the “Keep Kids Smiling” Fund with them for my planned gift and felt totally at ease with my decision.

As I started thinking about what was important to me, I realized I also wanted to do something during my life to further help children. I asked the Foundation if we could activate my fund now so that we could make an impact for children now in Miami-Dade County who are in need.

My nephew, a high school junior, came to me for advice on what he could do for his community service requirement. We talked about my Fund with the Foundation and he asked how he could get involved. Together, we decided that this would be a great project for him to work on with me now, especially as he would have a voice in overseeing the direction of the Fund once I am no longer here. He set a goal of raising $25,000 within the next year so that the Keep Kids Smiling Fund could benefit the Foundation’s Community Grants in 2018 under the Well-Being of Children and Youth category.

To think this entire journey began with that one question, “Do you have a will?” Deciding on how I wanted to leave a legacy was necessary. I now am at peace knowing my legacy will outlive me and help others forever.

Staci Ehrenkrantz is a donor of The Miami Foundation.


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