Ann Kay's Passion for Children's Mental Health

March 01, 2024

Ann Kay's Passion for Children's Mental Health

Ann and Michael Kay

As spring approaches, so too does the conclusion to the exciting renovation of the Horwitz-Zusman Child & Family Center (the center). The center was born from seeds planted in 2019 by several prominent families and foundations and seen to completion through the generosity of Mrs. Ann Kay.

The idea for the center came about five years ago when Terri Bonoff first joined JF&CS as CEO. She attended her first Past Presidents’ Luncheon — an annual gathering during which the seasoned past presidents of our Board of Directors provide their guidance and input about the agency to its present leadership. Former Presidents Michael Kay (of blessed memory) and John Pearlman were passionately outspoken about the need for JF&CS to prioritize the mental health of young people in the community. Terri refers to that meeting as a catalyst for bringing us into the future and sees Michael and John’s input as instrumental in the process of building the center.

Michael’s wife, Ann, was by his side the whole way.

“Typically, we honor and celebrate people more so after they leave us than when they were with us, and my dad was certainly someone to honor,” said their daughter, Alison Doerfler. “What is also true is that behind and/or next to any great man or woman is usually their partner. My parents were true partners in life and in their approach to philanthropy, and my mom continues to be an amazing partner to my dad even though he is no longer with us.”

“Their history of supporting the amazing work at JF&CS and their interest in the mental health and wellness of families can be seen in the expansion of the Child & Family Center,” Alison continued. “This is yet another example of my mom’s passion and commitment to continuing to do amazing work in the community to honor my dad and as reflection of her own values.”

For Ann, mental health has been an essential topic for years. “Mental health has always been so important to us as a family,” she said. “With our blended family, I know the importance of supporting children as they deal with any number of hurdles, like divorce or anything else they may encounter.”

“When I was growing up, not only did people not talk about mental health, no one talked about health issues, period! It has always been important to me,” she said. “In more recent years, a family member came to JF&CS for help with addiction and benefitted greatly from mental health support.”

Ann is a creative individual with a passion for art, so when it came to depicting a visual representation of their legacy gift in the lobby of the renovated center, art was essential. The Ann & Michael Kay Giving Tree will greet clients as a poignant physical representation of growth from a seed of inspiration.

“It felt so appropriate to use imagery of roots, and the leaves that go over to family members — the whole idea of it just really appealed to me and felt right,” said Ann. “The shade trees provide, the new growth; everything about the tree is so apt.”

For Ann, seeing the center nearing completion is “a wonderful feeling — there’s no other way to describe it,” she said. “It was important to us before Michael passed away, but it’s even more important now because I want his passion for this agency to live on. JF&CS does so much in this community, and not just for Jewish people. My children are thrilled, and it’s so exciting to be involved.”

Ann’s hope for the young people who come through the doors of the Horwitz-Zusman Child & Family Center is “that they would be empowered to be open, and to know that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help. When they do receive help, I hope they will share it, and maybe be able to help somebody else in the future.”

Thanks to the Kay family, many will be helped for years to come. Click here to learn more about the Horwitz-Zusman Child & Family Center, and to support the mission, click here.

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