At a recent Guide Dogs of America graduation, the school dedicated the new Tom and Helen Morton Graduation Area. At the dedication, Tom's son, Paul Morton, spoke about what sparked his father's interest in GDA almost 35 years ago - as well as why, eight years after his father's passing, the school continues to receive the generous support of Helen Morton, the Morton Family, the family's various business enterprises and its Foundation.
Tom Morton's interest in GDA started when one of his first clients, the Machinists Union, asked him to support the school by playing in its annual charity golf tournament. An avid golfer, Tom agreed to play. That day, he learned a lot about Guide Dogs of America and its program and he liked everything he saw. Tom's support of the school continued to grow over the years and, in 2001, he was honored with the Gift of Sight Award. His family continues that legacy of giving.
"My father was completely inspired by GDA and all of the people that make it work. He supported the cause because he believed in it," explained son Paul at the dedication. "Our family's support of the school has survived my father's passing and is the largest single annual donation we make to any one organization."
When the senior Morton passed away, there was nothing that said he wished his support of the school continue, but that is what the family has chosen to do. In fact, every year, the six siblings gather along with Helen Morton to evaluate Guide Dogs of America and all of the charities to which they give.
"'Feel good' is great, but there also has to be a 'do good' for us (The Morton Foundation) to consider an organization or cause," explained Morton. "We base our decisions on the intellectual reasons for giving. Is it run efficiently? Is it effective in its mission? Guide Dogs of America is exceptionally well run. They don't do frills. What they do is change lives. They are a great example of what it means to 'do good.'"
GDA President Dale Hartford approached Paul about the graduation area naming opportunity. "I thought it was a really good idea. They could have built something for two to three times the amount, but that is not GDA's style. The graduation area has been completely transformed with a new structure, stage, sound and lighting and it is perfect for the school. It is exactly what it should be and it's a very effective use of our donation. Our family is very proud to have the names Tom and Helen Morton on the new graduation area."
At the graduation, during which the new area was dedicated, Paul listened as all the graduates spoke and was reminded that they all come from different walks of life. No two arrive at the school with the same circumstances.
"One of the grads said, 'You know what we found despite our incredible differences? That we had fundamental things in common and that the loss of sight was the least of them. What we share is a desire to live a life with independence,'" recalled Paul. "Students don't come to the school asking, 'Please do something for me.' They are at the school because they want to do something for themselves. GDA lets its students know that they understand their situation and, if you are willing to work for your independence, we can help. It is an organization with great energy and a great compassion for helping people. That is the magic of Guide Dogs of America."
The Morton Family has been a proud GDA donor for more than three decades. For anyone considering making a gift to the school - in any amount - Paul, who was a Gift of Sight honoree recommends they go to a graduation.
"Go sit for an hour and watch 10 lives come to 'life' in front of you. You will understand how profound it is to give a dog as a partner to someone who is visually impaired. What a difference this is going to make in their lives."
For information about becoming a Partner in Trust, please contact Rhonda Bissell at 818-833-6432.