Grace’s story is similar to so many others Gold Canyon Founders Curt and Karen Waisath have heard: It starts with a happy family. Mom and Dad are working. The kids are healthy. Then, suddenly, a child falls ill. Tests are conducted. A diagnosis is returned. Lives are changed forever.
For Grace, the diagnosis was acute lymphocytic leukemia. The 7-year-old was flown to Seattle’s Cancer Care Alliance, a tube inserted in her chest in preparation for the 12 months of chemotherapy ahead of her. As Grace and her doctors waged war against the disease, her family was battling the emotional and financial hardships that come with caring for a child in need.
The Waisaths are familiar with these stories of struggle because, for the past 10 years, they have been listening to the prayers of families such as Grace’s, and through their Prayer Child Foundation, have helped answer many of them.
Making a Promise
The Waisaths founded Gold Canyon in 1997 as an opportunity for others to generate additional income by selling quality scents, décor, and home and body care products. Like many young business owners just starting out, they were barely able to make ends meet and worried about how they could keep their company going.
However, just three years later, Gold Canyon was thriving. The company was profitable, and the initial salesforce of 136 demonstrators in six states had expanded and was continuing to steadily grow. That’s when the couple turned their focus to a promise they had made when founding the company.
“We truly made a promise with God that if we could make this successful, that when the time came, we would give back to the community,” Curt says. “In 2000, we knew what we needed to do, so we started looking around and asking what our purpose was. And everywhere we looked, we saw or heard stories about children. The TV, newspapers and radio were talking about children in need, so we believed that was just our sign that we needed to focus on children.”
With their purpose clear and a passion for giving back guiding them, the couple established the Prayer Child Foundation. “As any parent knows, when your child gets sick, you’re nervous and you worry, and you begin praying to a higher being, whatever that may be for each individual,” Curt says. “In a lot of the stories we heard, the children were praying for a better life as well, whether it was because they were in an abusive situation or because of an illness they had. Both parents and children were praying for a better life, and that’s what drove us to call it the Prayer Child Foundation.”
The Waisaths believe that they and the entire Gold Canyon family have an obligation to invest in “the world’s most valuable asset and finest resource: children.” With the goal of helping a child or family have hope, the foundation focuses on physically and emotionally challenged children and teens 18 years and younger who are struggling with diseases like cancer or autism, or who have been abused or involved in other dangerous situations.
Prayer Child Foundation President Karen Waisath manages an all-volunteer staff, keeping operational costs low and ensuring that 99 percent of the donations received go toward assisting children in need.
“The Prayer Child Foundation is something that is very near and dear to my heart,” Karen says. “There are so many children who, through no fault of their own, struggle with life-threatening issues to their health, and their families are in need of emotional and financial support. Many of the children and their parents pray daily for a healthier life. The mission of the foundation is to have a hand in answering their prayers and to help these children have the joys of a normal childhood.”
Most of the foundation’s requests come in the form of pleas for financial assistance. When a child is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, a family’s life is often turned upside down. Mom quits her job to care for her child, cutting the family income in half. Dad takes vacation days to attend doctors’ appointments, and once his vacation days are gone, starts taking days off without pay. Medical and household bills begin to pile up, and the family’s already hurting bank accounts are further depleted. That’s where the Prayer Child Foundation steps in.
The foundation typically receives 20 to 25 requests for assistance each month. However, remarkably, in the foundation’s 10-year existence, it has never denied a request, resulting in over 2,500 families being helped through more than $2 million in assistance.
A Foundation ‘Where You Are’
The Waisaths created the Prayer Child Foundation with two purposes: to make a difference in the lives of children by providing financial support and to offer others an opportunity to help others.
Those most involved in the cause are the Gold Canyon demonstrators, who now number more than 27,000 in all 50 states and Canada. They participate in fundraising initiatives through the selling of Gold Canyon product, from which a portion of the annual sales go to various children’s charities.
In addition, 100 percent of the profits from the company’s “Candles for Kids” product line are donated to the Prayer Child Foundation. Each candle label in the line depicts a child kneeling in prayer, representing the Gold Canyon commitment to helping children. The candles’ white wax represents the innocence and purity of the deserving children, and each pastel color on the label symbolizes a way the foundation encourages, supports and assists children in need—pink for emotional support; blue, physical support; and yellow, the opportunity community involvement offers to ease the challenges a child may be facing.
Demonstrators can also become actively involved in the foundation’s mission by nominating needy families they would like to see supported. “They are really our biggest advocates of the foundation,” Curt says. “They promote it at the parties, and, in turn, they are our biggest requestors, because it is their foundation, their opportunity to make a difference. Just because we are in Arizona does not mean it is an Arizona foundation. We have no boundaries. It’s a ‘where you are’ foundation.”
The Waisaths say one special aspect of a demonstrator’s involvement with the assisted family is the ability to personally deliver the donation. “When a demonstrator submits a request for a family, we send the check to them, and then the demonstrator goes and presents it to the family,” Curt says. “It’s normally pretty emotional, as the family doesn’t even know the demonstrator made the request. They are so grateful.”
Gold Canyon also sells bracelets to raise funds for the Prayer Child Foundation, and last year held “The Candle Game,” an online event that donated 10 cents on behalf of every person who participated. According to Karen Waisath, the game brought greater awareness to the needs of many children and gave hope to families feeling overwhelmed by their circumstances, especially those without insurance.
In 2010, Gold Canyon plans to participate in walking events, which have become very popular with many of the company’s demonstrators. “One thing that is really starting to carry out in our field is walks,” Curt says. “We had a couple of demonstrators last year do walks and raise the money for the foundation, and that was shared at our national convention. So, this year, we have about 10 different walks across the United States and Canada planned that will raise money for the foundation.”
Addressing Worldwide Prayers
Though the Prayer Child Foundation focuses mainly on assisting families in need, it has also contributed to several local and national charities, including the Phoenix Children’s Hospital, March of Dimes, National Children’s Cancer Society, Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation and Junior Diabetes Research Foundation, to name a few, as well as international organizations’ relief efforts.
In 2005, the foundation partnered with Save the Children to restore hope to areas devastated by the December 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that killed an estimated 230,000 people and left more than 1.6 million men, women and children displaced.
And in response to the catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti at the beginning of the year, Gold Canyon held its largest candle fundraiser ever. For each fundraising candle purchased between Feb. 12 and March 31, an average of $10.08 was donated to Save the Children’s efforts in the country.
“Save the Children has a commitment to being in Haiti for five years to help out with that tragedy,” Curt says. “That’s five years’ worth of effort over there. A lot of times, we all believe it happened in January, and we’re sitting over here thinking it’s all good now over there. It truly is a long-term challenge that Save the Children is committed to.”
Since the disaster, Save the Children has provided life-saving assistance, including food, water and shelter, to more than 300,000 injured and displaced Haitians.
“We are delighted to have the support of Gold Canyon and its customers for our Haiti relief and recovery efforts,” says Charles MacCormack, President and CEO of Save the Children. “Gold Canyon has a strong history of supporting children in need, and we are grateful to them for engaging their customers to help the Haitian children who lost so much in the earthquake. Experts predict that it could take up to 10 years for Haitian communities to fully recover. With the added support from Gold Canyon, Save the Children will be able to expand our efforts to reach even more vulnerable children and families in the coming months and years.”
For the Children
Thousands of families facing life-threatening diseases and situations pray for help every day. The Prayer Child Foundation is answering those prayers, helping children experience the joys of childhood and providing hope for a positive future.
“You know, starting to grow a business from zero to $100 million is a big deal, but I think, definitely for Karen and myself, the biggest reward from this business truly is the foundation—the opportunity we have to, in a small way, help someone out there who is struggling,” Curt says.
It’s also been rewarding to the Waisaths as parents. Around the time they started Gold Canyon and began dreaming about what the Prayer Child Foundation would become, they adopted the first of their four children.
“We have a special place in our heart, as any parent does, for children,” Curt says. “And so the Prayer Child Foundation has just been the best thing about our business, hands down.”