Thunderbirds Charities donates $1 Million to Special Olympics Arizona, more than $3.1 Million to other Valley charities during Spring funding cycle


Thunderbirds Charities, the charitable giving arm of The Thunderbirds – hosts of the Waste Management Phoenix Open Presented by The Ak-Chin Indian Community – awarded more than $3.1 million in grants to 51 Valley charities during its 2018 spring funding cycle – including a record one-time donation of $1 million to Special Olympics Arizona for its new State Competitions Distribution and Training Center. Additionally, Thunderbirds Charities awarded grants of more than $100,000 to six Valley Charities; including $300,000 to St. Mary’s Food Bank, $200,000 to Child Crisis Arizona, $150,000 to Homeward Bound, $100,000 to Fresh Start Women’s Foundation and $100,000 to Friendly House.  

While the spring funding cycle is in the books, Thunderbirds Charities has announced that its 2018 fall funding cycle is now open. Information about the fall funding cycle can be found at      

“Without a doubt, giving back to our communities is the most rewarding thing about what we do as tournament hosts,” said Carlos Sugich, President of Thunderbirds Charities. “We’re thrilled and so proud to give these grants to deserving organizations around the Valley. It’s an honor to see where all the money goes from the WM Phoenix Open and how it impacts those in need in our community.”

The $1 million donation to Special Olympics Arizona helped create a new Distribution and Training Center which allows SOAZ the opportunity to serve even more individuals with disabilities across the state, ultimately expanding the number of athletes reached while creating more teams and enhanced competitions for SOAZ athletes.   

“We are honored to receive this momentous donation from Thunderbirds Charities for the new Special Olympics Arizona Distribution Center,” said Jamie Heckerman, Interim Chief Executive Officer of Special Olympics Arizona. “This donation will allow us to build a one-of-a-kind facility, which is a necessary component to our rapid growth as an organization and will be instrumental in allowing Special Olympics Arizona to better serve the community.”

The $200,000 donation to Child Crisis Arizona went toward its Head Start Expansion Renovation Project, which included a remodel of its Mesa facility to house two additional classroom spaces for 40 children, as well as child-sized bathrooms and additional Head Start staff offices.

“We could not be more thankful to Thunderbird Charities for their ongoing support,” said Child Crisis Arizona Chief Executive Officer Torrie Taj. “Their generous gift is allowing us to expand our education programs, and provide valuable services to families, many of whom lack access to quality early childhood education and parenting resources.”

The $150,000 grant to Homeward Bound went to Empowering Homeless Families with Children, a project that not only provides housing, but also offers parents access to financial resources and the ability to emotionally support and advocate for their children, while the children receive high-quality education and enrichment experiences.  

“I continue to feel astonished by the generosity and commitment of The Thunderbirds to our children,” said Homeward Bound President & CEO Becky Jackson. “We get the pleasure of seeing the transformation first-hand, and know that each day, they are breaking the cycle of poverty, and learning to thrive. We are truly inspired by Thunderbird Charities.” 

Additional grants awarded from the spring 2018 cycle: 

About Care $25,000 Volunteer Management Program Expansion

Arizona Council on Economic Education $35,000 Economics for Everyday Living II

Arizona Foundation for the Handicapped $30,000 PAES System

Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation $20,000 Extracurricular Activities

Arizona Science Center $80,000 CREATE on Wheels

Assistance League of East Valley Arizona $20,000 Operation School Belt

Be a Leader Foundation $50,000 PIPELINE of College-Going Programs and Matriculation Services

Bridging AZ furniture Bank $5,000 Veterans Furniture Project – Safe Equipment

Central Arizona Dental Society Foundation $20,000 Arizona Dental Mission of Mercy (AZMOM)

Child Crisis Arizona $200,000 Head Start Expansion – Renovation Project

Duet:  Partners in Health & Aging $10,000 Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

East Valley Senior Services $15,000 Independent Living Volunteer Services

Educare Arizona $20,000 Early Education Extended Day Program

Elevate Phoenix $50,000 Discover Your Success Vans

Empact-Suicide Prevention Center $55,000 Trauma Healing Services – Therapy Advocacy

Esperanca $25,000 Literacy Programs

Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona $25,000 Programs for Children

Fresh Start Women’s Foundation $100,000 Program Expansion

Friendly House $100,000 Occupational Training Workforce Readiness

Friendship Foundation “Glencroft Wellness Center” $10,000 Pool Lift and Equipment

Furnishing Dignity $10,000 Essential Home Furnishings

Genesis City $50,000 Trailblazer Program

Higher Octane Healing $10,000 Social Connections

Homeless ID Project $80,000 Securing Lost/Stolen ID for the Homeless

Homeless Youth Connection $50,000 Empowering Youth for the Future

Homeward Bound $150,000 Empowering Homeless Families with Children

Honor House $25,000 Operation Healing Journey

Hunkapi Programs $25,000 Covered Riding Arena

ICAN:  Positive Programs for Youth $25,000 Youth Development Program

Jumpstart for Young Children

“Jumpstart AZ” $15,000 Workforce Development Program

Junior Achievement of Arizona $15,000 New Computers for JA Biz Town

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation $25,000 JDRF Community Outreach Program

K2 Adventures Foundation $5,000 K2 Programs for Youth

Maggies Place $40,000 Family Resource Center Services

Maricopa Health Foundation $50,000 Bridging the Mariposa Wings to Safety and the Refugee Women’s Health Clinic Programs

MentorKids USA $10,000 Student Success Program

Military Assistance Mission $50,000 Basic Life Needs and Support

Muscular Dystrophy Association $10,000 MDA AZCare Centers

Musical Instrument Museum $50,000 A World of Musical Journeys

notMYkid $30,000 Amplif(i) Program for BGC

Scottsdale Museum of

Contemporary Art $20,000 AZ Wolf Trap Early Education Arts Program

Soldiers Best Friend $15,000 Service/Therapeutic Companion Dog Program

Southwest Human Development $50,000 Children’s Clinic/Good Fit A/V Project

Special Olympics Arizona $1,000,000 2018 State Competitions/New Distribution and Training Center

St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance $300,000 Rural Arizona School Pantry Program Expansion

Stand for Children “Arizona”

Leadership Center $15,000 Family Engagement

Stepping Up for Seniors $10,000 Medical Assistance

Step-Student Expedition Program $15,000 STEP Phoenix College Prep Workshops

Treasures 4 Teachers $30,000 T4T Wheels

United for Change $10,000 Veterans Furniture Center

Waste Not $30,000 Refrigerated Truck

About The Thunderbirds/Thunderbirds Charities
Thunderbirds Charities is a non-profit organization formed in 1986 to distribute monies raised through the Waste Management Phoenix Open golf tournament. The Thunderbirds Charities Board consists of 15 board members from varying professional backgrounds. The mission of Thunderbirds Charities is to assist children and families, help people in need and improve the quality of life in our communities. The organization’s giving is directed toward organizations based or with a significant presence in Arizona. The Thunderbirds were founded in 1937 with the mission of promoting the Valley of the Sun through sports. The Thunderbirds consist of 55 “active” members and more than 280 “life” members. For more information on the Thunderbirds or the 2018 Waste Management Phoenix Open Presented by The Ak-Chin Indian Community, visit For more information on Thunderbirds Charities, visit