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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.

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.

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 that used to take place in Sam and Helen’s living room now happen in the offices of the Walton Family Foundation, where a Board of Directors comprised entirely of family members still drives our focused approach to philanthropy.

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Walton Family Foundation is established


Annual giving reaches

$1.4 million

Foundation awards its first public charter startup grant

Kindergarten students sitting on the floor


Walton Arts Center opens in Fayetteville, Arkansas

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


Children's Scholarship Fund is launched

Annual giving surpasses

$50 million


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


Annual giving exceeds

$100 million


$5.1 million

grant awarded to Marine Stewardship Council


Annual giving reaches

$200 million


First mountain bike trails are built in Bentonville, Arkansas

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.


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


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


Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opens


Foundation staff grows to

75 people

Razorback Regional Greenway opens in Northwest Arkansas


Building Equity Initiative launches

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


Foundation staff grows to

124 people

$2.1 million

invested in Atlanta Public Schools' Turnaround Strategy

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

The Louisiana Coastal Master Plan is approved

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


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 we are committed to this work for the long term