"As we develop the technology to turn undrinkable water into pure, healthy water, I feel that we will change the lives of millions of people in poverty around the world and will prevent many diseases and disabilities. I am still discovering purpose in my life"
- Kenneth E. Behring
The establishment of the WaterLeaders Foundation marks the most recent chapter in Kenneth E. Behring's philanthropic efforts to improve the lives of disadvantaged people around the world.
From his successful career as an automobile dealer in Wisconsin, Ken entered the world of real estate development in the 1960's. Over the course of the next 35 years, his companies created numerous planned communities in Florida and California, including the world-renowned Blackhawk development near San Francisco.
After purchasing the Seattle Seahawks football team in 1988, Ken established the Seattle Seahawks Charitable Foundation, which benefited numerous children's charities. The Seahawks Foundation was the most substantial donor to the Western Washington Muscular Dystrophy Association for many years.
Ken Behring founded the Blackhawk Museum and the Behring-Hofmann Educational Institute in Blackhawk, California, to benefit the San Francisco East Bay region. In 1997, he pledged $20 million to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and in 2000 he pledged an additional $80 million to rebuild the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. For only the fourth time in the Smithsonian's 170-year history, the prestigious James Smithson Award was bestowed on Behring in recognition of his generosity and vision. The Blackhawk Museum is now an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and hosts Smithsonian exhibits.
During his years of travel around the world, Ken has made it his personal mission to help those in need. His donations of food, medical supplies, clothing, toys and educational materials have helped people in some of the most impoverished nations on earth. His first-hand involvement has given him a realistic picture of how much help is needed worldwide, particularly in regards to providing clean drinking water.
In 1999 Ken donated shipments of wheelchairs to relief organizations in Eastern Europe and Africa. His personal contact with the recipients gave him a greater understanding of how much hope and happiness can be given to a person who receives a wheelchair. In the following months, he traveled the world delivering wheelchairs to numerous countries and on June 13, 2000 (His birthday) the Wheelchair Foundation was established at a ceremony in Washington, DC.
Since June of 2000, Ken has tirelessly traveled the world delivering tens of thousands of wheelchairs to the disabled citizens of five continents. The relationships he has developed with world leaders have led to a greater awareness of the needs and abilities of the physically disabled, and are a great force in propelling the mission of the Wheelchair Foundation. In 2002, Ken was awarded an honorary doctorate by Brigham Young University for his worldwide charitable efforts.
Ken and Patricia, his wife of 56 years, reside in Blackhawk, California. They have five sons and ten grandchildren.
To view a personal message from our founder Ken Behring, please click here.
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