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December 2017


Greetings to our Kristin Linnea Skvarla Foundation family;

In this season of giving and thanksgiving, the KLSF Board of Directors, along with Madelynn, David, Sonja, and Kai are filled with gratitude, as we have been since the early days of 2000 when we set out together on a journey we never expected to take. Our extended families and each of you have taken this journey with us. We’re grateful for your embrace of the desire of Kristin’s friends and her family to share her passion for meeting others, with far different histories and circumstances than our own, and to connect with their gifts and visions for the future.  

On this journey we’ve met learners of all ages and teachers of all backgrounds and we’ve discovered rich tapestries of unfamiliar cultures within the US, Africa and the Marshall Islands.  We’ve worked to learn how we can best share our resources to enable sustainable change in communities and with individuals. We’ve traveled a long way on this road together!

Now the road will fork in many directions as KSLF wraps up its formal identity and closes its books at the end of this year. Each of us will carry forward the intentional investment we’ve made in enabling the potential of individuals we have met on this road, even as we continue to test the limits of our own zones of comfort in an ever-changing landscape of ideas and challenges. In Kristin’s spirit we hope that, with us, you will aspire to continue to engage others to notice and respond, resisting the option to walk on by.

Since 2000, as an expression of your generosity, KLSF has granted over half a million dollars. Small grants at the outset represented tuition for two learners per year at St. Boniface College in Sambyu, Namibia, and grew to support eight learners yearly, eventually granting tuition, room and board which represented 90+ years of scholarships to the school where Kristin taught. Other grants provided assistance with post-secondary scholarships for college level study and occupational education in car mechanics and the tourism business for graduates of St. Boniface. KLSF supported WorldTeach volunteers to create community-based projects at their various sites including upgrading a school library, creating a safe playground, mentoring students to lead a community water conservation project, and starting a healthy living club for teens. We supported both year-round and summer personal growth opportunities for students on Chicago’s west side, through Camp of Dreams and Providence St. Mel’s Summer Opportunity of a Lifetime (SOAL). In addition we contributed to entrepreneurship education and follow-up coaching for men transitioning from incarceration (A Social Ignition).

KLSF has been honored to be in a position to make three grants of $100K each in the past three years. We supported the expansion of programs at Akilah Institute in Rwanda (, where women master concepts and skills aligned with the region’s fastest growing industries. We presented a legacy grant to WorldTeach ( to annually defray costs of volunteer teachers going to Namibia, the most costly of its programs, but one of the most highly lauded. In 2018, through a partnership with Barefoot College (, headquartered in India for more than 40 years, a solar power installation will become operational in the far northwest Kuene Conservancy of Namibia. Fully-trained women solar engineers, sometimes referred to as solar mammas, will build and maintain the equipment needed to bring safe and dependable solar energy to their community for light, heat and cooking.

Among KLSF board members are the most inspiring young professionals you will ever meet! They are Kristin’s siblings and her loyal, loving friends from places in her life that she most strongly embraced… Glenbrook South High School, Vanderbilt University, Providence St. Mel and WorldTeach. Each has contributed their ‘heart’ and expertise to growing sunflowers from Chicago, Africa, the Marshall Islands, Oregon and back again. Dana Bonkowski, David Kirby, Lauren Ratner, Amy Sagues and Kai Skvarla are current board members and along with Lisa Demas, Meika Hilsman, Sanders Lowery, Michael MacHarg, and Sonja Skvarla, who previously served, have acted as diligent stewards of your generous gifts and thoughtfully guided its work in pursuit of our mission. Each in their own wonderful way, they’ve made a bumpy journey for Madelynn and Dave, and for many of you, one to treasure and to move forward with in years to come.

We encourage each of you to continue to seek meaning in your own life by extending a hand to others and advocating to “support individuals—especially young people—who strive to discover, explore and positively change our world, primarily in areas of education and community development.” We believe there couldn’t be a more meaningful way to remember Kristin! It would fill her heart… as you have ours!


Madelynn and Dave Skvarla



















August 2016


Greetings, friends of Kristin Linnea Skvarla Foundation!


Since gathering socially in October 2014, the Kristin Linnea Skvarla Foundation (KLSF) has continued to fulfill its mission to honor Kristin by celebrating and supporting the discovery of human potential through individuals—especially young people—who strive to discover, explore, and positively change our world.


Early this year, the KLSF Board of Directors was joy-filled to learn of a particularly special group of WorldTeach (WT) volunteers headed to Namibia. This group of volunteers is supported in part by a KLSF legacy grant! From when Kristin taught at Saint Boniface College in the Okavango region of Namibia in the late 90’s, to the present, posts in Namibia have been the most difficult to fill of all the programs WT operates. Regardless of the high value the Namibian Ministry of Education (NMoE) places upon their work, the quality of the support WT provides its volunteers, and the stable and welcoming communities into which volunteers are placed, costs associated with travel to southern Africa and the small portion of costs NMoE was able to contribute, were major roadblocks for potential volunteers. With the assistance the KLSF legacy grant offered to each Namibian volunteer, WorldTeach was able to negotiate with NMoE for increased financial support for the Namibian program in its new contract. Collectively, these changes have reduced the cost for volunteers to Namibia closer to that of other countries hosting WT programs.


Following a year (2015) in which Africa-based volunteer programs were broadly cancelled due to the Ebola outbreak, volunteers are back in Namibia! Kristin’s family and KLSF Board of Directors are thrilled that her enthusiastic devotion to filling each day with meaningful experiences for her learners will continue to be an inspiration for Namibian youth who are anxious to take their place in a better world. We anticipate that the warm and welcoming Namibian people, the vibrancy and challenges of a young country, and the striking contrasts of the Namibian landscape will continue to be the experience that talented volunteers, attracted by WorldTeach, carry home with them to share with family and friends. We are certain you will enjoy the attached newsletter with updates from the first months of the 2016 volunteers’ experiences. KLSF has worked with groups strongly connected to Kristin’s own experiences and has supported both formal classroom learning and experiences beyond the classroom that provided learning no book could teach. The people and places Kristin and the foundation have introduced into our world vision are familiar now to us not simply as places—St. Boniface College in northern Namibia, Providence St. Mel Summer Opportunity of a Lifetime (SOAL) and Camp of Dreams on the west side of Chicago, A Room to Read in South Africa, and Akilah Women’s Institute in Rwanda—but as images of young people we met there and their innovative and thoughtful contributions to a more positive, inclusive world.


KLSF continues to work toward bringing positive change with financial support to A Social Ignition. This Oregon-based organization boldly strives to develop the potential of men soon to be released from prison, and supports the long term sustainability of the families and communities to which they return by teaching entrepreneurship inside prison and providing individualized follow-up coaching during their re-entry. With a mission to support individuals who strive to positively change our world and Kristin’s heart-felt commitment to educational means, the outcomes for this under-resourced group of learners brightens. Following their journeys takes us yet again into a world beyond our own experience.

We want to continue to share KLSF news with you! In the future we plan to make more extensive use of email capabilities and hope you will embrace that effort!


With gratitude for your ongoing and enthusiastic support,

The KLSF Board of Directors

Dana Bonkowski, David Kirby, Lauren Ratner, Amy Sagues, Kai Skvarla, and Madelynn Skvarla

Directors Emeritus

Meika Hilsman, Sanders Lowery, Michael MacHarg, and Dave Skvarla


15th Annual KLSF Celebration!

trythisKLSF continues its commitment to investing in students in under-resourced communities and the responsible stewardship of the resources that you have entrusted to us. We have grown from supporting individual students in Chicago and Namibia to supporting the expansion of sustainable educational programs with even greater community impact. This year, KLSF awarded the Akilah Institute for Women a major grant to expand their successful women’s college program into Burundi. Established in Kigali, Rwanda in 2010, the Akilah Institute offers a market-relevant college education to women in Eastern Africa, most of whom are the first in their families to attend college. Please visit to learn more about their remarkable work. We’re thrilled that Akilah’s Founder, Elizabeth Dearborn Hughes, and an Akilah alumna will join us at Celebration.

Our  fifteenth Celebration event will mark the last of what has come to be our traditional fall gathering of friends and family to celebrate Kristin with a commitment of our own to support students and their limitless potential — wherever they may be. We sincerely hope you will join us for this final Celebration. Bring your friends and enjoy this wonderfully warm evening of lasting friendships and collective care for a mission which has opened us all to learning from young people passionate to discover the power of the potential they possess.

If we don’t see you this October, don’t fret — we’ll keep you updated on KLSF by mail, electronic and ‘real,’ so that we can all continue to draw inspiration from the programs and students that KLSF supports around the world.

15th Annual KLSF Celebration
Saturday, October 4th 7-10pm
The Gallery at the Swedish American Museum
5211 North Clark Street, Chicago
$50 Donation at the door includes admission to the event and wine, beer and light hors d-oeuvres
Metered parking on Clark Street
Free parking on Ashland and Foster Avenues, and on side streets east of Clark just past the alley


It is with sadness that we share the news of the passing of our beloved board member, Frans Lowell Victorson, 63, on May 20, 2011.

Frans was born to Reverend Frans A. and Elsie Victorson on April 26, 1948, in Des Moines, Iowa.  His boyhood in Saint Joseph, Michigan, was filled with swimming and sailing, camping and canoeing, cross country track, his Honda motorbike, forest green MGB and friendships that would last a lifetime.  Frans was active in the life of Saron Lutheran Church and in scouting.  Frans attained the rank of Eagle Scout, trekked the rugged, rocky mountain trails of Philmont Scout Ranch’s high-adventure base near Cimarron, New Mexico, and attended the 50th Anniversary National Jamboree at Colorado Springs.  In 1963 he represented American scouts by participating in ceremonies at which monarchs of the Scandinavian countries were presented with the Gold Lamb Award for their leadership of the scouting movement in their countries.

Through his college years Frans worked in construction and plumbing trades.  After graduation from Eastern Michigan University he moved to Maine where he taught middle school science and embraced the opportunity to live near the sea and sail at every opportunity.

When Frans moved to North Carolina he began what would become a 22 year career at  GlaxoSmithKlein.  He began as Research Investigator and retired in 2008 as Manager of the Pilot Plant responsible for its operations and materials management earning the respect of his colleagues for his thorough approach and commitment to excellence.  He continued his active lifestyle, running, biking, windsurfing, kayaking and sailing.  He moors Saga, his wooden-hulled 42-foot Dickerson ketch, at Washington, NC.  He taught numerous novice sailors the joys … and the challenges of capturing the wind on the open sea.

Throughout his life, Frans enjoyed sharing not only his love of sailing, but his Nordic heritage, his ‘fix-it’ guy expertise and his giving nature, with all he met.  He gave vacation time to filling sandbags on the Mississippi River, participated in numerous Habitat for Humanity projects, served on the board of Faith Lutheran School (Raleigh) and was honored to be a member of the Board of Directors of Kristin Linnea Skvarla Foundation which carries forward the spirit and endeavors of his niece who shared his compassion for others as well as his example of reaching out a helping hand.

Frans L. Victorson 1948-2011

Frans had special enthusiasm for time shared with family and friends.  His family, sister Madelynn (David) Skvarla, nieces Sonja and Kristin (deceased) Skvarla, nephew Kai (Julie) Skvarla and grandnephew Anders, as well as extended family and friends young and old, will smile to remember him as, characterized by a young friend, “an obscenely generous, loving, open and caring soul … and a bit of an engineering dork to boot!”

A memorial service for Frans was celebrated at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, at 2 PM, Tuesday, May 24.  Memorial contributions to Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (, Kristin Linnea Skvarla Foundation ( or 3063 Crestwood Lane, Glenview, IL 60025) or to a charity of the donor’s choice were invited.

KLSF First Post

The Kristin Linnea Skvarla Foundation (KLSF) supports individuals who strive to discover, explore and positively change our world, primarily in the areas of education and community development. Our objectives are to extend the reach of individuals who commit themselves to serving others, create educational opportunities particularly in underserved communities and advance sustainable projects that contribute to long-term development of communities. We encourage grant recipients to “pass on the gift” by planning for co-investment of human capital and sustainability in each of the projects we support.

Through the Foundation, Kristin’s friends and family embrace the communities and organizations that she served in both rural and inner city America as well as in Namibia. Although we are missing Kristin, her spirit inspires us to seek the best in ourselves, to invest in the potential of individuals who positively change our world and to joyfully celebrate the gifts of the friendships she has left with us. By the tenth anniversary of KLSF in 2010 over 60 scholarships which provide a full year’s tuition, board and room and examination fees have been awarded to learners in grades nine through twelve at Saint Boniface College, Sambyu, Namibia. Six individuals from the Okavango area of Namibia have been awarded grants allowing them to pursue studies beyond high school. More than 25 projects identified and led by WorldTeach volunteers have provided schools and communities in Southern Africa and The Marshall Islands with seed money to enhance learning and quality of village life. Students from Chicago’s west side, who attend Providence St. Mel School and the Camp of Dreams Program during the school year, receive scholarships to participate in summer enrichment activities which provide new windows on the world and inspiration for learning.