Glioblastoma. Diagnosis of this particularly aggressive form of brain cancer shattered their world in 2004. The next year, they said goodbye to Caroline—a wife, mom of three, daughter, sister, and friend. Today, this family is making a difference in the lives of others to honor the one they loved and lost.
A PhD medical geneticist, Dr. Caroline Laundon practiced for 20 years in Chapel Hill as one of the owners of GeneCare, where she truly loved providing care to expectant parents. In her free time, she looked for opportunities to invest in others at every turn. Her oldest son, Russell Laundon, says his mom not only cheered for he and his brothers at East Chapel Hill High School where they played varsity sports, but she also celebrated the time spent with them, their teams, and their teammates.
Following Dr. Laundon’s death in 2005, her family and close friends considered how to honor her life. She and husband Tom always believed in the benefits of high school sports, and all three of their boys stayed actively involved throughout high school. It felt only natural, then, to support future student-athletes and benefit others while also honoring the memory of this wife, mother, and friend.
In 2006, the Caroline H. Laundon Memorial Fund at Triangle Community Foundation was born. The scholarship is open to any varsity athlete at East Chapel Hill High School. Recipients currently receive $2,500 towards the cost of college.
All three of the Laundon boys, now men—Russell, PharmD; Kregg, MD; and William—sit on the selection committee that decides the scholarship recipients each year. They rotate as the logistics point person and serve with their mom’s friends: Karen Lauterbach; Paula Miller, MD; Dianna Lappas; and Kim Christopher, FNP.
Russell emphasizes the significance of being able to impact families by assisting young student athletes in paying for college. Sifting through piles of essays from increasingly impressive applicants, he and the committee feel a deep sense of responsibility in making these decisions. But they wouldn’t miss the chance to make a difference.
This eldest son credits his parents for establishing in their family the importance of positively impacting the world. His dad credits the previous generation. Although that generation had less capacity to give monetarily, they prioritized generosity and passed that value down to Tom who—with his wife—imparted it to their sons.
It’s easy to think individuals need an excess of treasure to be able to share with others, but Russell Laundon pushes back saying,
“We often think of philanthropy as coming from families who have extensive financial resources, but it’s important to be careful not to devalue the significance of small gifts. Small amounts pooled together make a big impact, so it’s important for us to do smaller things earlier and not wait until we feel like our gifts are big enough. Small gifts matter, too.”
His dad agrees, and because of that, over the years the family has grown their support of other causes they care about through Triangle Community Foundation’s donor-advised fund options and Giving Together, a collective giving initiative that supports the strong nonprofit ecosystem in the Triangle.
Tom says one of the main reasons his family contributes to Giving Together is that it provides focused resources centered around a cause.
“When we partner with others to contribute together, we make a more targeted impact that’s also more substantial. Individuals may be giving small, but they’re making a big impact.”
As a solutions-focused philanthropist with an engineering background, Tom appreciates the multiplier effect. He’s since remarried and moved to Raleigh with his wife, Carol. His desire to make a difference wherever he goes has continued with weekly service at a local food bank and participation in projects at his granddaughter’s school.
The Laundon sons also continue contributing to their communities and the world. From Russell’s involvement with his wife in the NC Science Olympiad, to Kregg’s transatlantic trip serving in a Botswanan medical clinic, and everything in between, the Laundons are committed to gratefulness for what they’ve been given, and generosity with what they can give.
And they have a really wonderful mom to thank for the role she played in their legacy of philanthropy.
Tom Laundon is a Fundholder at Triangle Community Foundation. The photo above was used with permission from Tom, it is of his family at his son’s wedding.