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Our History

We are a family-led foundation

Sam and Helen Walton moved to Northwest Arkansas in 1950 to open a five and dime store, and their passion for retail later led to the creation of Walmart. In 1987, Walmart celebrated its 25th anniversary, and Sam and Helen established the Walton Family Foundation.

Sam and Helen

They envisioned the foundation as a bond to strengthen and bring their family together, children and grandchildren across generations, to find lasting solutions to big challenges.

Today, several generations of the descendants of our founders and their spouses work together to lead the foundation.

Helen had a favorite saying: "It is not what you gather in life, it's what you scatter in life that tells the kind of life you have lived." That spirit of giving has guided the foundation in its philanthropy over the past three decades.

Family meetings once held in Sam and Helen’s living room now happen in foundation offices. Our Board of Directors is composed entirely of family members who lead our strategic approach to philanthropy.

They hold a belief people can accomplish anything with opportunity and encouragement. As we move forward in a changing world, the foundation and its partners work to broaden these pathways to opportunity and remove barriers in its way.

Milestones
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1987

Walton Family Foundation is established

Sam and Helen Walton in 1989

1989

Annual giving reaches

$1.4 million

Foundation awards its first public charter startup grant

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Kindergarten students sitting on the floor

1992

Walton Arts Center opens in Fayetteville, Arkansas

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Billie Jo Starr and Helen Walton (right) cut the ribbon to open the Walton Arts Center in 1992.

1998

Children's Scholarship Fund is launched

As we focus on making an impact that improves lives today, we also want to ensure that it lasts to benefit future generations.

Annual giving surpasses

$50 million

2002

KIPP Delta opens its first school in Helena-West Helena, Arkansas

KIPP Delta Signing Day

2003

Annual giving exceeds

$100 million

2005

$5.1 million

grant awarded to Marine Stewardship Council

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2006

Annual giving reaches

$200 million

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2007

First mountain bike trails are built in Bentonville, Arkansas

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Coler offers flow trails from beginner to expert level with the green Family Flow, blue Fireline and black Cease and Desist and Drop the Hammer.

2009

First grant to a school district - Denver Public Schools - for high-quality schools

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2010

Foundation supports Washington, D.C. Public Schools IMPACT program

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2011

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opens

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2015

Foundation staff grows to

75 people

Razorback Regional Greenway opens in Northwest Arkansas

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2016

Building Equity Initiative launches

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Walton Family Foundation governance changes to include a board chair and five board members

2017

Foundation staff grows to

124 people

WFF Staff Group 2017

$2.1 million

invested in Atlanta Public Schools' Turnaround Strategy

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Diverse private school classmates are excited as foam overflows from beaker during chemistry experiment.

The Louisiana Coastal Master Plan is approved

Coastal birds

Mexico, U.S. sign Minute 323, a new Colorado River water use agreement

Colorado River Water in the West Grand Junction landscape
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Annual giving exceeds

$500 million

March 23, 2018
Three generations of the descendants of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and their spouses, work together to lead the foundation.
We celebrate 30 years as a family foundation by applauding those innovators who think big to solve big problems
March 23, 2018
Real change takes time and must be guided by the people and communities where we work. We are committed to collaborative, community-driven solutions.