Luca Foundation Finds Home at the St. Louis Community Foundation
The St. Louis Community Foundation is excited to welcome the Luca Foundation as a new fund with a mission to support nonprofit organizations providing medical, financial, educational, and technological support to children and families affected by childhood disease and/or disability. The Luca Foundation was established in honor of Luca Gruszka, an eight-year-old third-grade student who attends Henry Elementary School, who was diagnosed with leukemia on December 12, 2016.
The Luca Foundation was started by Steven D. Snodsmith, President and CEO of PLM, and Matt Lanzone, Chief Operating Officer of Superior Building Group, who are close friends of the Gruszka family. When Luca was diagnosed, Steven and Matt knew immediately the type of financial burden this could have on the family. However, to create the financial impact that they both had envisioned they knew they needed to create a team of people to help. Together they reached out to Edward Matejcic, James Sindelar, Tim Shocklee, and Brad Garlich who along with Matt and Steven became the “Founders” of the LUCA Foundation.
Together they have the ambition and passion to create a difference in the lives of children and families that are in similar situations as the Gruszka family. Driven by their passion for helping others and love of Luca and his family, the founders coordinated and execute their first fundraising initiative – a golf tournament titled, The 1st Annual – Tee It Up For Luca, which took place at Tapawingo National Golf Club on October 3, 2017.
After months of planning and securing partnerships, the golf tournament raised close to $100,000, which would not only support Luca, but other families and young children who are facing major health crises.
In addition to the funds used to support Luca’s medical stay and treatments, students at Southwest Middle School helped to raise funds that were used to help him attend school virtually via a telepresence robot. Using the robot, he was able to log in from home and learn daily routines, meet his classmates, as well as study math and reading.
When we visited Luca in the hospital, we saw other kids and families who needed help. We realized how important education is when a child cannot attend school due to a medical illness, and so our primary purpose is to help kids like Luca.
Luca has an aggressive three-year treatment plan, but he has proven to be a strong fighter and champion throughout the process.
“Luca has been incredibly strong throughout the entire process. He has been the one who has kept our spirits up. Luca is very perceptive; he knows exactly when to give you a hug, make a silly face, or tell a joke, said Angela Gruzka, Luca’s mom. “As his parents, we should be the one helping him, but it is reciprocal. He has helped carry us through the last year with his sense of humor. I named him The Charming Fighter.”
Friends of Luca, along with the Gruszka family, presented a check in the amount of $46,500 to the St. Louis Community Foundation on December 28, 2017, to officially begin their charitable partnership.
The St. Louis Community Foundation will work with the Luca Foundation by providing strategic guidance in philanthropic grantmaking, in an effort to achieve the greatest impact in the St. Louis community.