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 so different.”
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. AR