Rancho Santa Fe National Philanthropy Day honoree supports local and national organizations in a variety of ways


By Kristina Houck

One of Rancho Santa Fe’s very own will soon be honored for her work in the community.

Pamela Wygod, who has lived in Rancho Santa Fe for 20 years, is one of eight community leaders who will be recognized at the National Philanthropy Day Awards Luncheon Nov. 7 at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel.

Wygod, 66, will receive the Outstanding Philanthropist Award for her work toward improving the lives of children and women, and promoting education and health.

In its 41st year, National Philanthropy Day celebrates the importance of public and private partnership and collaboration in philanthropy, as well as the role of the development staff and volunteers in philanthropy. National Philanthropy Day is organized by the San Diego Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and presented by the Jewish Community Foundation San Diego.

“I’m totally surprised,” Wygod said. “When you’re involved in philanthropy, your reward is knowing that you’ve helped somebody. You don’t anticipate that you’re going to get an award thanking you for helping other people.”

Originally from New York, Wygod volunteered on development committees at her children’s schools. Although she enjoyed supporting Emily and Max’s education, Wygod discovered she didn’t like asking for money.

“I’d much rather give it away,” said Wygod, as she laughed.

Seeing a need in her community, Wygod founded the Rose Foundation, a private family foundation, in 1992. The foundation, which focuses on women and children’s issues, domestic violence, and health and wellness, has donated to a variety of local and national organizations, including the Alzheimer’s Association, Boys and Girls Club of San Dieguito, Interfaith Community Services, Monarch School, Rady Children’s Hospital, UC San Diego, Voices for Children, and more.

“I felt that my husband and I were in a position where we could help and it’s gone from there,” said Wygod, whose husband, Martin Wygod, is a businessman, prominent Thoroughbred racehorse owner and breeder, and board chairman of the WebMD Health Corporation. “The Rose Foundation was my first vehicle into philanthropy. It was cutting my teeth on philanthropy. I learned a lot through that.”

Wygod later co-founded the WebMD Health Foundation, of which she currently serves as vice president and co-chair. Dedicated to improving the quality of health care through education, access and innovative collaborations, the foundation supports CancerCare, Lotts Creek Community School and the UCSD Student-Run Free Clinic Project, which provides accessible, quality health care for the underserved in the community.

“I was shocked beyond belief when I saw what they were capable of doing,” said Wygod, who got involved with the clinic about eight years ago and currently serves on the clinic’s advisory committee. “It captured my heart immediately.”

In addition, Wygod founded the Anonymous Giving Circle of Women. Launched 11 years ago, the group has anonymously distributed more than $1 million to the San Diego community, Wygod said.

“I felt that there was a need for a group like this because I know our community needs funding, and I wanted women to understand that we can do so much more than buying a ticket or table at a charity,” she said. “I am so proud of this because we have 16 wonderful women who have done an amazing job of helping out our community.”

A collaborative grant maker who cares about the underserved, Wygod often leverages grants with other foundations. In all, Wygod has been responsible for more than $32 million in grants to more than 150 organizations throughout the United States.

“Everybody is capable in some manner to help out other people in our community who are in need,” Wygod said. “It doesn’t always have to be something huge. It doesn’t have to be something where your name is on a building. It has to be something that reaches the average person where they’re struggling and they need help to survive.”

The National Philanthropy Honorary Committee, which is comprised of community leaders, including past honorees, reviewed more than 175 nominations for this year’s awards.

Nominated by the UCSD Student-Run Free Clinic Project, Wygod’s nomination was endorsed by a number of people, organizations and institutions, including the Ronald McDonald House Charities of San Diego, Rady Children’s Hospital Foundation, A Reason to Survive, CancerCare, Sanford Health Foundation, Lotts Creek Community School, KPBS and The California Endowment.

“I am so grateful and surprised by the number of people and nonprofits who supported my nomination,” Wygod said. “It’s very special and I’m so pleased that they feel that I do good enough work that I deserve something or warrant an award — even though if I didn’t get one, I would still be very happy helping out.”

The National Philanthropy Day luncheon will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront.

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