Rales Center: Why We Support This Venture

Josh Rales for web portraitPhilanthropist Joshua Rales, at left, president and trustee of the Norman and Ruth Rales Foundation,discusses his family foundation's role in establishing a new Ruth and Norman Rales Center for the Integration of Health and Education at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. Its first in-school health center opens in KIPP Baltimore in August 2015.

What drew you in?
First of all, this is our form of philanthropy: plant the seeds, as we are doing with our initial investment of monetary support and strategic analysis, then join like-minded individuals to create a potentially trans-formative venture–in this case, integrating children’s health care with their education–and then allowing it to take root and flourish. In this vein, our Foundation will match all gifts to the Rales Center at Johns Hopkins, until we reach its total goal of $6 million.

Second, this venture was right up our funding alley. Johns Hopkins’ well-researched and scientific program to bolster under-served children’s academic success by boosting their health meshes beautifully with our Foundation’s commitment to improving lives. The Foundation is a legacy of my parents Ruth and Norman. My siblings (Steven and Mitchell) and I have chosen to employ its funds to create a legacy for our parents whose lifelong values were integrity and compassion for the less fortunate, values they instilled in us. They always offered a helping hand to others, especially children. Perhaps this was in part because they had received the same growing up in this country. My father, who was raised in an orphanage, never for-got the medical care and educational foundation he received there, all through the kindness of strangers. My parents went on to live the American dream of personal and financial success as well as to revel in the love of their children and grand-children.

Third, my own highly satisfactory personal experience with Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, as a patient (and later friend) of immunologist Jerry Winkelstein, drew me to partner with this outstanding research institution. A belief Jerry and I share and discussed frequently is the concept, long promoted by experienced and compassionate physicians, that good children’s health requires a good education and vice versa. From my own experience, I knew the level of skill outside of the doctor’s office that managing a chronic condition required, and I could not imagine how children with fewer family resources and more stressors could possibly manage. The obvious solution to Jerry and me as well as to the team at Johns Hopkins was to bring the management of the children’s health to the school and integrate it into the curriculum. Parents don’t have to take off work, and access and transportation to quality medical care would no longer be an issue.

KIPP KIDSHow did the partnership between the Rales Foundation, Johns Hopkins and KIPP evolve?
KIPP has schools in the DC Metro area where our Foundation is located. Their focus on closing academic disparities is in line with our Foundation’s mission and that of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center pediatrician Tina Cheng, an expert on health disparities among children. Her Johns Hopkins colleague Sara Johnson also has shown, through research, the life-long consequences of early exposure–even in utero–to the kinds of social and mental stresses that some children experience in their families and communities. Tina had the vision to build full-spectrum health services into children’s schools, but she hadn’t found the right school. As a supporter of the KIPP schools, I introduced Tina and Sara to KIPP Baltimore, which has an elementary and middle school on one campus in Park Heights serving families primarily from less affluent communities. KIPP has a tremendous track record. While nearly 100 percent of its students go on to graduate from high school, with most moving on to college, KIPP Baltimore’s students nonetheless face many health challenges that stem from poverty that if addressed, could lift them even higher.

Is the Rales Foundation’s investment strictly financial at this point?
Not at all. We are partners and advocates. We are highly disciplined and hold people accountable for promised results, but we also are advocates for programs we support. In addition, we bring extensive financial and managerial experience to the table to support our partners. The Rales Foundation is very fortunate to have my brothers Steven and Mitchell as trustees. As the founders of the Danaher Corporation, a highly successful Fortune 500 company, my brothers, through their business acumen, intellect and overall engagement bring a level of rigor to the Foundation’s decision-making process that is invaluable. With Johns Hopkins, KIPP and the City of Baltimore, we’ve joined the best of the best to transform children’s lives.

At KIPP Baltimore, the new Rales Health Center will open in August 2015.