Simone Biles hopes to inspire other foster care kids to pursue their dreams.

Olympic gymnast Simone Biles is speaking out about her hardships growing up, being in foster care, and how she’s giving back now.

The gold medalist was placed in foster care when she was 3 years old, because her mother was addicted to drugs and alcohol. Her grandfather and his wife eventually adopted her and her younger sister, but the sisters still had to spend some time in foster care first.

“I was so young, I didn’t quite understand what was going on,” she said. “But I recall some of the kids coming to the foster home with only the clothes on their back and a backpack.”

“This is such a personal cause for me, because I know firsthand what it’s like to be in foster care — struggles and all,” Biles said. “I came from a foster home and went on to achieve everything I’ve achieved. I’m just hoping it can inspire other foster kids to never give up and to always pursue your dreams. And to play sports and get good sleep!”

SDGE Executive, Adoptive Parent Joins Walden Board

Emily Shults

Emily Shults

Walden is pleased to announce that San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) Vice President of Energy Procurement Emily Shults has joined the organization’s governance board of directors. The role is deeply personal for Shults who adopted two daughters through Walden.

“I was really interested in serving on a board that I felt connected to—one that would best help serve the needs of so many children in our community,” said Shults. “Walden Family Services is an organization that I was instantly excited to join, as my husband and I worked with Walden when we formally adopted our daughters in 2015.”

Shults further shared that she believes her various leadership positions in the business community have helped her to understand the importance of listening and supporting people at every level of an organization.

“I believe in working together to solve difficult problems and I am passionate about performance,” Shults said. “I think that this experience, combined with navigating a lengthy struggle in the interest of our girls, will give me the ability to provide a creative contribution to Walden in a way that prioritizes the interests of the children, first.”

At SDG&E, Shults is responsible for all aspects of acquiring energy and capacity to serve the company’s customers. Simply stated, Shults and her team are responsible for procuring the company’s vast renewable energy resources, as well as traditional resources. She also oversees economic dispatch of power plants, power trading, risk control and settlements. Prior to this role, Shults held numerous positions at Sempra Energy, and also worked with Williams Energy Marketing & Trading and Deloitte & Touche, LLP in her home state of Oklahoma before relocating to San Diego.  Shults holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Tulsa.

“Emily’s experience adopting two children through Walden speaks volumes about her commitment to foster children and youth in our community,” said Teresa Stivers, CEO of Walden Family Services. ““In addition, her extensive business skills and knowledge of the community will be an invaluable asset to our board.”

Shults will serve on the board’s Continuous Quality Improvement Committee, which oversees evaluation of Walden’s programs and services and ensures regulatory compliance. Her three-year term on the board will end in 2019.

National Adoption Month Story Contest

Are you a Walden child, youth or family with an adoption story to share? Enter our National Adoption Month Story Contest by sharing a memory of your adoption experience. Just “Like” Walden’s Facebook page, then post a short story (approx. 100 words) and a family photo in the comment section below our “National Adoption Month Story Contest” post.

Entries that receive the most likes before 12:00 noon on November 18 will win either a $25 gift certificate to the Olive Cafe or four free passes to the San Diego Automotive Museum. Prize winners will be announced on Facebook on National Adoption Day, Saturday, November 19.

Learn more about National Adoption Month, or make a tribute gift to celebrate how adoption has changed your life.

Wine D’Vine Honors Foster Care Champions, Raises $675,000

Walden Family Services honored longtime champions Harley and Maryanne Sefton with the inaugural Fostering Hearts Legacy Award October 28 during its Wine D’Vine fundraiser. The event attracted a sold out crowd of 350 influential business and community leaders and raised over $675,000 for the nonprofit’s foster care, adoption and parent training programs.

“Walden is thankful for the continued generosity of the Seftons, our sponsors and our guests for making this year’s Wine D’Vine an unparalleled success,” said Walden CEO Teresa Stivers. “I am also grateful to Lacey Bowman for sharing her story about growing up in foster care and for inspiring the audience with her own gift to support the children and families Walden serves each day.”

In honor of Walden’s 40th anniversary, the evening featured an unforgettable concert with rock legend John Fogerty. The former lead singer and lead guitarist of Creedence Clearwater Revival got the room up and dancing with classic hits including “Bad Moon Rising,” “Proud Mary” and “Have You Ever Seen the Rain.” The concert was underwritten by the Seftons and produced by Bollotta Entertainment.

The event was chaired by Marty and David Pendarvis, and emceed by Ranch & Coast editor-at-large Andrea Naversen. Other notable guests included Ron and Mary Alice Brady, Lori and Bill Walton, Olivia and Peter Farrell, Gaby and Rich Sulpizio, Stephanie and Steve Brownell, and Wendy and Greg Hunter.

AJW Facilities and Construction was the Wine D’Vine Ruby Premier sponsor. Premier Cru sponsors included event chairs Marty &and David Pendarvis, Barney & Barney, Dowling & Yahnke, the Farrell Family Foundation and Union Bank.

Each year, proceeds from Wine D’Vine account for 35% of the funds raised to support children, youth and families served by Walden. In 2015, community investment allowed more than 1,500 children, youth and families throughout Southern California to heal from trauma and develop relationships that prepare them to thrive.

Check out the Wine D’Vine 2016 photo gallery, and mark your calendar to attend Wine D’Vine 2017 taking place October 13, 2017.

About the Fostering Hearts Legacy Award

The Fostering Hearts Legacy Award honors individuals who have made a lasting commitment to ensure that children and youth in foster care have loving families and opportunities to become vibrant, productive members of the community.

Weingart Foundation Awards $200,000 to Walden Family Services

Grant Will Expand Services to Foster Youth in Los Angeles and Inland Empire

Walden Family Services (Walden) announced today that the Weingart Foundation has awarded the agency a $200,000 unrestricted grant. Walden intends to use the grant funds to build its capacity to serve foster children and youth in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. The grant will allow Walden the flexibility to respond to changes in the foster care system, which is focused on keeping families together whenever possible and placing children who cannot return home with families rather than in group homes or institutions.

“Research routinely shows that the lasting relationships children develop with family and community are the foundation for learning, social-emotional well-being, and successful, fulfilling lives,” said Walden CEO Teresa Stivers. “Thanks to the Weingart Foundation grant, we can expand our outreach to foster and adoptive families and community partners so that more children grow up prepared to realize their full potential.”

Walden strives to give foster youth the same opportunities as their peers, but government funding cuts make it extremely challenging. “Weingart has generously approved Walden using $50,000 of the grant for a dollar-for-dollar matching campaign so that we can build the reserve funds necessary to cover upfront program costs,” added Arlene Lieberman, chair of Walden’s Governance Board of Directors.

Walden will also leverage the Weingart Foundation grant to attract individual donors and private funders and decrease the agency’s reliance on government funding.


Grammy Winner John Fogerty Live at Wine D’Vine

GRAMMY winner John Fogerty takes the stage October 28 at Wine D’Vine, a 40th anniversary celebration and concert to benefit foster children, youth and families throughout Southern California.

“Walden’s vision that every child should grow up in a family inspired me to get involved in supporting kids in foster care,” said Maryanne Sefton. “I’m thrilled that this year’s event gives more people an opportunity to learn how their generosity prepares foster youth to become productive members of our community.”

Chaired by Marty and David Pendarvis, Wine D’Vine features a VIP reception with appetizers prepared by Pamplemousse Grille Executive Chef Jeffrey Strauss. Guests will also enjoy fine wine from leading California vineyards, a three-course dinner by Estancia La Jolla and a live auction. The concert, presented by Harley and Maryanne Sefton, will feature Fogerty’s classic hits, including “Bad Moon Rising”, “Have You Ever Seen The Rain” and “Fortunate Son.” Ranch & Coast editor-at-large Andrea Naversen will serve as mistress of ceremonies.

About Wine D’Vine

Now in its 12th year, Wine D’Vine attracts over 350 philanthropic and community leaders committed to creating bright futures for foster children and youth. Proceeds from the event account for 35 percent of Walden’s annual fundraising. In 2015, Walden Family Services provided more than 1,500 children, youth and families with services that help them heal from trauma, promote nurturing relationships and create opportunities to thrive.

Tables and Tickets

A VIP Reserved Table for 10 is $6,000, a VIP ticket is $600 per person, and general admission is $4,000 per table or $400 per person. Purchase tickets online or contact Kathryn Stephens, Director of Philanthropy, at (619) 727-5897 or via email for more information.

Walden CEO Named to UCSD Chancellor’s Community Advisory Board

Picture of Teresa Stivers

Teresa Stivers, CEO, Walden Family Services

UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla today announced that Walden CEO Teresa Stivers has joined the university’s Chancellor’s Community Advisory Board. As a board member, Stivers (UC San Diego Alumna ’90) will build awareness of the university’s positive impact and advise the Chancellor on the campus’ role in the community.

“Teresa is recognized throughout the San Diego community for creating opportunities for foster youth and other first-generation students to earn college degrees,” said Khosla. “Her insight into creating academic, networking and housing opportunities for these students will ensure that we provide opportunities for all our students to succeed.”

“Too often, foster youth don’t consider college because they don’t have the skills to navigate college visits, applications, financial aid and housing,” said Stivers. “At Walden, social workers encourage them to seize the opportunity to remain in foster care to pursue their education. I look forward to working with Chancellor Khosla and the board to ensure that graduating becomes the norm, not the exception, for foster youth who choose to go to college.”

Stivers’ Leadership Experience

At Walden, Stivers oversees administration, operations, public relations and fundraising. Since joining the organization in 2010, Walden has become one of the state’s largest providers of transitional housing and support services so that youth ages 18-21 can remain in foster care to continue their education or find stable employment. Walden also served as the program director and executive director of the Child Abuse Prevention Foundation (now Promises2Kids), where she helped to establish the Guardian Scholars Program and Mary’s House, a transitional living program for former foster youth. In addition to her role on the Chancellor’s Community Advisory Board, Stivers currently serves on committees for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, San Diego County Taxpayers Association, and Housing YOU Matters.

Ranch & Coast Spotlights Spring Soiree Guests

Image of August 2016 Ranch & Coast magazine

Ranch & Coast, August 2016 Cover

Ranch & Coast snapped some great pictures of guests at Walden’s Spring Soiree fundraiser. Take a peek at the clip, which appears in the August 2016 San Diego’s Best issue.

About the Spring Soiree Fundraiser

Spring Soiree raised $25,000 and took place during Foster Care Month in May. Proceeds will fund programs that prevent child neglect and abuse, match kids with foster and adoptive families, and prepare youth to become productive members of the community.

Youth Donate Backpacks at Walden’s 40th Anniversary

Crisafulli twins sitting amid donation of 100 backpacks

Jacqueline and Sheridan Crisafulli, 11, amid backpacks donated to Walden foster children and youth.

Walden received a special delivery during its 40th anniversary open house on Thursday, July 28. Twins Jacqueline and Sheridan Crisafulli, 11, raised money to purchase and donate 100 backpacks and school supplies for kids in foster care.

“We want to do this because it must be really hard to be a foster kid and not have your real Mom and Dad to be there to support you when you start out the school year,” wrote the girls in their letter asking family and friends to support the project.

“We are honored that Jacqueline and Sheridan chose to give foster children and youth the tools they need to start the school year,” said Walden CEO Teresa Stivers. “These backpacks are not only a gift to the children who receive them, they are also a reminder that every one of us can help prepare foster children and youth to thrive.”

Jacqueline and Sheridan first learned about Walden several years ago from their parents, who regularly attend Walden’s annual Wine D’Vine fundraiser. Their mother, Jennifer, explained that both girls became concerned that children in foster care didn’t have their parents to tuck them in or support them. The girls first gave to Walden in 2014, when they donated their birthday presents to foster children and youth.

Councilmembers Present Proclamation

City Councilmembers present Walden with proclamation

CEO Teresa Stivers and Foundation board members Art Candland and Dale Ganzow receive proclamation from Councilmember Chris Cate (District 6) and council representative Sheldon Zemen (District 7)

At the 40th anniversary open house, the girls met Councilmember Chris Cate (District 6) and council representative Sheldon Zemen (District 7). Cate and Zemen presented Walden with a proclamation recognizing Walden’s role in preparing children and youth to reach their full potential as members of the community.

Guests representing the public, nonprofit and private sectors enjoyed appetizers while learning about Walden’s history and impact on children and youth in foster care.