Family Ties: O’Shaughnessy family inspires giving across generations

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O'Shaughnessy

On a warm fall morning, more than 60 members of the O’Shaughnessy family filed out of a tour bus in front of Children’s Hospital Colorado. Armed with stuffed animals and books to deliver to patients, the group of brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles ranged in age from 5 to 77. They had come from cities across the country to visit a hospital that their family foundation has loyally supported for more than a decade.

“That was one of our smaller family gatherings,” said Dan O’Shaughnessy, whose extended family comprises more than 130 people. “It seems like there’s another O’Shaughnessy baby born almost every month!”

Despite the family’s size, age range (0 to 95) and sprawling geographic locations, they all have one thing in common: a passion for philanthropy. The family has been giving back for more than 75 years through the I.A. O’Shaughnessy Foundation.

Founded in 1941 by Dan’s grandfather, I.A. O’Shaughnessy, the foundation contributes millions of dollars annually to organizations nationwide. I.A. O’Shaughnessy passed away in 1973, but his legacy of philanthropy lives on through the generosity of his foundation, which today is led by his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“We’re very proud that we’re able to continue the legacy of my grandfather,” said Dan, who serves on the O’Shaughnessy Foundation’s board of directors. “His values of helping others are very much intact today.”

The O’Shaughnessy Foundation is one of more than 42,000 family foundations in the United States that is making a significant philanthropic impact by granting more than $26 billion in total charitable gifts every year, according to data from the Foundation Center.

Starting Young

Dan’s daughter, Sadie Shaughnessy, says that giving back is a core family value that was instilled from a young age. 

“One of my earliest memories was going out with my family over the holidays to give hats, coats and food to the homeless,” recalled Sadie. “Now I’m trying to instill those same values in my kids.”

Today, Sadie serves on a granting committee for the O’Shaughnessy Foundation, which recently made a $50,000 gift to Children’s Hospital Colorado’s First 1,000 Days initiative. This innovative program aims to give young children a healthy start in life by minimizing stress and other risk factors — especially those shown to be detrimental during the first three years of life. Thanks to the O’Shaughnessy Foundation’s gift, Children’s Colorado launched a new psychosocial screening program that helps caregivers identify at-risk children and provides families with support and resources.

For Sadie, the gift to Children’s Colorado was especially meaningful. Her 1-year-old son recently underwent eye surgery at the hospital.

“Having a child in the hospital is an experience that no mother ever wants to have,” said Sadie. “His care was phenomenal and the doctors were amazing. It is great knowing that our family is giving to a place that is so worthy.”

The O’Shaughnessy family has supported numerous other programs at Children’s Colorado over the years, including a significant gift in 2014 to support the Milk Lab. Children’s Colorado is one of just three hospitals in the nation with a dedicated facility to prepare, store and distribute breast milk for pre-term babies. The O’Shaughnessys’ gift allowed the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to completely renovate the Milk Lab with expanded facilities and equipment that will give these tiny patients the best possible start in life. 

Fostering Engagement

To help keep the family’s philanthropic spirit alive, the O’Shaughnessy Foundation recently established a Younger Generation program. Designed to encourage the founding patriarch’s core philanthropic values, this 18-month-long training program teaches younger family members about everything from grant making to board governance.

Chaun Powell, who is married to fourth generation family member Erin Powell, completed the Younger Generation program last year. He also serves on Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation’s Philanthropy Council.

“I’m big on seeing tangible results from giving,” said Chaun. “There has to be an ROI. Having Children’s Colorado in our own backyard, you can see the magic that happens there.  It’s a tangible benefit to our community.”

When it comes to philanthropy, Chaun says that engaging younger generations is absolutely critical.  

“If you can find ways to engage the younger generation, you will see results,” said Chaun. “The O’Shaughnessy Foundation has done a tremendous job of making this a priority. We keep our values front and center so that they won’t die off.”

Those core values are now trickling down to the youngest O’Shaughnessys, several of whom attended the family’s visit to Children’s Colorado last fall. Although some of these children haven’t finished kindergarten, they’re still learning about the importance of helping others.  

“When our family visited Children’s Colorado, we brainstormed ideas about how we could help the patients,” recalled Sadie. “One of the younger kids said, ‘I could share my Legos®!’”

That’s the commitment to giving that has motivated the O’Shaughnessys for generations — and will continue to make a difference for many generations to come.

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