Community Builders: Four Alumni Serve on Board of Olivia Hudson Foundation
Community is one of National University's six core values. Many of our graduates are involved in community and nonprofit organizations as leaders and volunteers. They welcome involvement from fellow alumni and provide a valuable opportunity to network, contribute, and give something back. Community Builders is a Newswire column profiling people from the National University community who encourage all of us to participate and make a difference.
Four National University alumni serve on the Board of Directors for the Olivia Hudson Foundation, an organization that was formed approximately two and a half years ago to assist families, and particularly the siblings, of children suffering from pediatric brain cancer, funding pediatric brain cancer research and raising the public awareness of issues related to such illness.
When Olivia Rae Hudson was two years old, she was diagnosed with Pineoblastoma, a rare and aggressive cancer originating in the pineal gland deep within the brain. Olivia and her family not only had to deal with the negative effects of chemotherapy and radiation to treat her cancer, but also with the side effects related to brain surgery.
After a brief remission, and in spite of the best efforts of her medical team, Olivia’s cancer ultimately returned. It was at that point that her parents were faced with the painfully limited choices of experimental regimens or ending all therapy and bringing their daughter home to make her last days as comfortable and pleasant as possible.
As Olivia slipped into a coma, her loved ones gathered around to say their final good-byes. On March 19, 2013, just a month shy of her fourth birthday, she passed away. Determined to offer pediatric cancer patients and their families more hope, awareness, and options, Olivia’s relatives set out to establish the Olivia Hudson Foundation.
Olivia’s mother, Rachel Hudson (BBA, 2009), is a co-founder and board member of the Foundation. Her goal is to help further the research that could save another child’s life and to create programs, which support the siblings, who often suffer from stress, confusion, and disruption of family routines that a cancer diagnosis brings.
Olivia’s grandfather, Ken Hudson (BA, Interdisciplinary Studies, 1986), is also a co-founder, Vice President and Treasurer of the Board of Directors of the Foundation. During a long and distinguished career in education, he also served as an athletic director, coach, and interim principal/administrator, and is currently a pastor at a local church.
Olivia’s great uncle, Ross Ambers (BA, Interdisciplinary Studies 1999), is a co-founder and currently serves as Vice President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Olivia Hudson Foundation. He has served nonprofit businesses for over 20 years, with experiences ranging from founding his own company to directing major nonprofit programs.
Also serving on the Olivia Hudson Foundation Board of Directors is alumnus, Brian Witkin (BA, History, 2013 / MBA, 2015), who is the founder and CEO of Pacific Records, an independent record label and Witkin Real Estate, both based in San Diego. In February 2015, he was named “Kickass Entrepreneur” in the San Diego Union Tribune.
Witkin stated, “I’m proud to be able to give back to the community and be a part of an organization comprised of so many talented individuals dedicated to the cause of helping others in need.”
With a shared dedication and a mutual vision, these four National University alumni have quickly established a presence in the community and are expanding the scope of their services. Recently, the Foundation launched Olivia’s Kids Against Cancer, a program that focuses on the siblings of young cancer patients. The new program is being offered in partnership with Rady Children’s Hospital. Something else that the directors say they’re proud of is the close relationship that they’ve established with the Ronald McDonald House.
According to Mr. Ambers, he and other Olivia Hudson Foundation board members have been active with the Institute of Philanthropy at the Sanford Education Center, located at the National University headquarters in La Jolla, California.
“We’ve taken almost every course that Sanford has offered in past two years, and it has benefited our organization tremendously,” he said. “We are now teaming with the Sanford School of Philanthropy to host a summit of like-minded pediatric brain cancer foundations to discuss the current state of this devastating illness and the future efforts in supporting families, raising public awareness, and funding research.”