Anonymous donor gives Maryville $250,000

In ego-driven society, anonymous donors still doing good

  • The new playground sanctuary for Maryville Academy's residential homes in Bartlett was built, in part, with a large donation from an anonymous donor.

    The new playground sanctuary for Maryville Academy's residential homes in Bartlett was built, in part, with a large donation from an anonymous donor. Courtesy of Maryville Academy

  • The new playground sanctuary for Maryville Academy's residential homes in Bartlett was built, in part, with a large donation from an anonymous donor.

    The new playground sanctuary for Maryville Academy's residential homes in Bartlett was built, in part, with a large donation from an anonymous donor. Courtesy of Maryville Academy

  • The new playground sanctuary for Maryville Academy's residential homes in Bartlett was built, in part, with a large donation from an anonymous donor.

    The new playground sanctuary for Maryville Academy's residential homes in Bartlett was built, in part, with a large donation from an anonymous donor. Courtesy of Maryville Academy

  • The new playground sanctuary for Maryville Academy's residential homes in Bartlett was built, in part, with a large donation from an anonymous donor.

    The new playground sanctuary for Maryville Academy's residential homes in Bartlett was built, in part, with a large donation from an anonymous donor. Courtesy of Maryville Academy

 
 
Updated 11/10/2011 2:58 PM

In a world where personal attention seems to be a commodity craved by tweeters, Facebook and YouTube posters, reality TV stars, people with 20 children and anyone named Kardashian, some folks don't want anybody to know about their good deeds.

"The cause is more important than any recognition," says a man who has anonymously donated $250,000 to Maryville Academy's suburban homes for girls with mental illnesses and mental disabilities. "I'm more interested in seeing the kids get the benefit. I'd rather be in the background and see them become successful."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

When a new playground and sanctuary for girls, teen moms and their kids is unveiled Friday at Maryville's Eisenberg Campus, the Hanover Park Township Mental Health Board will be recognized for its donation to the project, and a couple of Maryville staff members who also donated should get a well-deserved public thanks. But the anonymous donor says he doesn't want naming rights or even to see his name grace a plaque.

"He prefers his gift be anonymous, and that's OK," says Dan Summins, director of development for Maryville. "He's such a nice guy."

His donation also funded a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Disney World for many of the Maryville girls, who are wards of the state and generally come from dysfunctional homes and childhoods filled with nightmarish abuse.

"These kids are not in a position to do that," explains the donor, who is in a position to make their dreams come true.

Not only did the 14 girls with low IQs and mental illnesses bring back life-changing memories and souvenirs, some of the 16 staffers who took take care of them on that trip "had never been on an airplane before," says Rocco A. Cimmarusti, director for the Casa Salama and Casa Imani programs on Maryville's Bartlett campus.

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Lots of people, whether donating fortunes or whatever meager bills they might have in their pocket, don't want any credit, says Daniel Borochoff, president of charitywatch.org, a Chicago-based watchdog agency that keeps track of charities nationwide.

"A lot of wealthy benefactors are concerned about outing themselves and letting people know they are in a position to give," Borochoff says. Some want to keep donations secret because "it might hurt business," Borochoff adds. An executive who donates to a charity associated with a particular political slant can anger potential customers. Even a donation to a charity with universal appeal might alienate people who think the money should have gone to a different charity.

"Sometimes philanthropy serves to redeem the bad reputation of individuals," Borochoff adds. Indeed, some criminal sentencing hearings often include mitigating evidence about charity work.

Then there are those anonymous donors who make everyone feel good.

"You're not doing it for ego. You're doing it for the right reasons," Borochoff says.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Maryville donor says he got his 15 minutes of fame when he and his friends sold their Internet company a few years back and became multimillionaires before the age of 30. Now, he says he just wants to help Maryville because it is doing "noble work" that "nobody else is doing."

Born in Russia, the Jewish immigrant grew up in the suburbs, where he was on his school's wrestling team. He doesn't fit the stereotype of the typical donor to the old Catholic charity. He says he also donates to Jewish charities, entrepreneurial causes and other charities.

"I give to a few causes I know very well and can be involved in," says the man, who recently married and does not have children.

"He's an extremely humble kid. He's a real down-to-earth kid," says Cimmarusti, who adds that the programs on Maryville's Bartlett campus "touched his heart."

Now working in real estate, primarily in efforts to establish affordable housing, the donor says he is a member of the much-talked-about richest 1 percent and really does want to "give back" to the community.

He credits his success to a combination of "opportunity" and the family, friends and others "who help you out" on the road to success.

"I think there are tons of that in this country and that's what makes the United States different," says this donor, who says he'd like to help others find success. Just as people helped him without demanding credit, he wants to return the favor.

"Personally," he says. "I feel I've been very lucky."

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