By Danielle Beurteaux
When Sandy Prater was looking to get involved
with a non-profit group, he searched for an organization where
he could be part of changing lives in a profound way.
Prater, 62, founder and managing partner of the New York
event-focused equity hedge fund Ridgecrest Partners, found the
perfect group when he attended a dinner for New Alternatives
for Children with friend and board member John Cannell. He was
surprised the agency wasn't better known. "I thought it
deserved more attention than it was getting," he says.
New Alternatives for Children is unique: It's the only
children's welfare organization of its kind in New York,
helping kids and their families deal with serious medical
issues and disabilities-often long-term-that require an
intensive care commitment. For Prater, it stood out from the
many other children-focused charities. "These cases are more
dire, and success is measured in smaller steps," he says.
Prater signed on as a board member in the beginning of 2007 and
serves on the finance committee.
NAC was founded in 1982 to help children who were
languishing in area hospitals for want of an alternative. Many
had developmental limitations or physical disabilities, such as
cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, or cystic fibrosis, that
didn't require hospitalization, but they had nowhere else to
go. Existing foster care organizations didn't want them because
they were considered unlikely candidates for foster care or
adoption. Either the children's own parents weren't capable of
taking care of them, or their homes weren't equipped for their
disability. "In some cases, they've never seen the outside of a
hospital," says Prater.
Over the years NAC has developed into an agency that offers
a variety of services for children and their families,
including health care, fostering and adoption services, and
family support, all linked to ensure that families stay
together whenever possible or that fostering or adoption is
successful. "Walk through the building," says Prater, speaking
of NAC's headquarters. "The caring at different levels is
unlike any I've seen, because it's so diverse and each case is
NAC does all of this on a budget of about $13 million a
year, which comes from a mix of government and private
sources-including support from Hedge Funds Care, a
child-focused industry foundation. Arlene Goldsmith, executive
director of NAC, says Prater has been invaluable for his
enthusiasm, the contacts he's brought to NAC and his financial
knowledge. "He has been instrumental in helping me raise
money," says Goldsmith.
Each spring NAC holds its own Olympics, in which kids get to
compete in everything from rock climbing to races and do what
kids do best-have fun. For many of them, if not for NAC, they
might not have made it out of a hospital, let alone onto a
racetrack. "This is a life-changing organization," says Prater.