The LilySarahGrace Fund
Lily, Sarah, and Grace were three vibrant, intelligent, and creative sisters. Older sister Lily and younger twin sisters Sarah and Grace each had their own unique strengths and personalities. Lily was gentle and perceptive; Sarah, charismatic and sweet; and Gracie, imaginative and sensitive. All three girls struggled with dyslexia but found confidence and a sense of self in art. Whether it was performing, painting, or imaginative play, the sisters engaged with their surroundings through creativity. When the girls died in a fire in 2011 aged 9, 7, and 7, their father, Matthew (Matt) Badger created the LilySarahGrace Fund to honor their lives and to encourage the kind of creative learning in school that his children loved. Matt, a successful filmmaker and photographer, created the LilySarahGrace Fund with the goal of making education accessible to all children by using the arts as a medium for education. Matt himself experienced how art and creativity is undervalued in schools. He also grew up with dyslexia and struggled in school because he did not learn the same way other students did. From a young age, Matt’s unique intelligence and creativity wasn’t recognized and he was excluded from the opportunity to learn and succeed. It was not until he started making films that Matt began to succeed at school and, through his own drive and talent, he was able to start his own film company in New York City. From his own life experience, Matt was able to share the joy of artistic expression with his daughters. After losing his girls, Matt wanted to honor their memory by bringing to other children who might not have the same access, the same gift of the arts shared by Lily, Sarah, and Grace.
Matt believed that too many children were being excluded from meaningful learning because of the national focus on standardized testing and school reform that results in a prescribed format of measuring success. He felt this methodology of teaching fails to reach all students in the classroom, leading to a sense of exclusion and failure for those children who don’t fit the mold. Matt believed that art could and should be used as a medium for teaching, inviting all different types of learners to participate and engage. From his grounding in social justice, he directed his Fund to work with teachers in underfunded schools where, because of budget cuts, lack of funds, and the focus on standardized testing, access to art and music was limited or nonexistent. As such, the Fund is dedicated to helping teachers in Title I elementary schools to integrate art into their curriculum to ensure that all students can engage and succeed.
Matt passed away in 2017. The LSG Board wanted his vision to carry on in a meaningful and concrete way. By happenstance, the Board was introduced to Beth Wilbur Van Mierlo, executive director of Side x Side. Matt and Beth would have been kindred spirits, sharing the same deep caring for every student and having the same desire that every student be provided with the opportunity to engage in learning and participate in the joy that success can bring. Like Matt, Beth believes that art can be integrated into the curriculum as a means to inspire learning. As a result, the LSG Board has dedicated $800,000 to Side x Side’s programs in the Portland Public Schools. This program matches elementary teachers with local artists who work together to integrate art into the curriculum. This money will be paid out over the next nine years to ensure that it will have a long-term impact on how kids can be taught and inspired by the arts.