Rancho Santa Fe philanthropist on road to support causes from WWII museum to children’s advocacy

As the daughter of a World War II flying ace, Kay Isaacson-Leibowitz got goosebumps when she visited the National World War II Museum in New Orleans in December to celebrate the opening of a new wing.

The museum’s exhibits “really brought to life” the experiences of her late father, Brig. Gen. Clayton M. “Ike” Isaacson and his fellow service members, said the Rancho Santa Fe resident.

Accompanying her were her husband, Harry; her sister and brother-in-law; and her 91-year-old mother, Nona Isaacson.

“It was an amazing experience. She had a great time, she was the belle of the ball,” said Isaacson-Leibowitz of her mother.

Isaacson-Leibowitz, co-founder of the World of Children Award for child advocacy, was invited by the National World War II Museum’s CEO to serve on the honorary national committee for the celebration. Her fellow committee members included former news anchor Tom Brokaw and a number of top business executives.

Isaacson-Leibowitz’s father flew combat missions in World War II and the Korean War, and his five “kills” landed him on the exclusive list of WWII flying aces. A number of other relatives have also served in the armed forces, including her nephew, a Navy commander.

“We have a family of men who have served their country, which I’m very proud of,” she said.

The new wing is called “Road to Berlin,” and houses galleries devoted to the events of the war’s European Theater.

“It was educational and emotional,” she said of the celebration, which was attended by numerous veterans and their families. “I want to be associated with the museum the rest of my life. I love every part of it.”

Isaacson-Leibowitz said her brother-in-law is gathering items and memorabilia of her father’s, including letters, which will be donated to the museum as part of its collection.

Besides her involvement with the National World War II Museum, Isaacson-Leibowitz and her husband continue to oversee the World of Children Award program, which honors people around the world for their work on behalf of children. Since Harry Leibowitz started the program in 1997 (Isaacson-Leibowitz became involved when the couple met two years later), the World of Children Award has disbursed $6 million in grants to its honorees to support programs that help children.

The program hosts an annual awards banquet in New York City; the most recent event was held in November, when $1.3 million was raised to support children’s advocacy.

The Rancho Santa Fe couple have a business background: He worked in marketing and ran his own consulting business, while she worked in the fashion industry for four decades, including executive positions at Victoria’s Secret and Banana Republic.

Now they devote most of their time to the World of Children Award, and travel each year to countries around the globe to see firsthand the work that their grants support.

In March, the couple will visit Laos and Cambodia, where one of the 2014 World of Children Award honorees, Kenro Izu, has built pediatric hospitals. They are inviting people interested in supporting the program to join them on the trip. More information can be found on the organization’s website, worldofchildren.org.

In the past, the couple have traveled to Ukraine, India, Nepal and South America to promote and support the World of Children Award.

“I have the same reaction every time we go. The selfless work these people do is so much better than I ever could have imagined,” said Isaacson-Leibowitz. “I’m so proud of these individuals and the work they do. We’ve never been disappointed.

“It just refuels us every time we go out and see the work.”

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