In 2000, a group of community leaders came together to lift up women and girls through focused philanthropy. Knowing that women and girls funds had succeeded in creating meaningful progress in other parts of the country, founders Leah Bailey Moon, Felice Gray-Kemp, Eileen Kraus, Paddi LeShane, and Marie O’Brien drew together with other women to establish the Aurora Foundation.
The growing foundation organized itself and raised funds, established priorities, and identified program opportunities. Aurora grew consciously and deliberately, building bridges in the community and delving into the issues to develop a deep understanding of both the potential and the challenges in our area. In early years, a “by women, for women” golf tournament hosted by Nykesha Sales supplemented community donations. In 2005 the foundation launched the Signature Breakfast, which became an important annual fundraiser. In 2004 Aurora started distributing micro-grants to Hartford area organizations and by 2016 it reached a distribution of nearly $500,000 in grants.
Due not only to the fundraising and grantmaking but also its groundbreaking research on the status of women and girls in Hartford County, the Aurora Foundation has become a powerful vehicle in addressing the needs of women and girls to ensure a level playing field for all. Thanks to the vision of early believers and their discipline in building a solid financial base, Aurora today has a growing capacity to realize the founders’ dreams.