The Emily Shane Foundation hosts its annual charity event at Duke’s Malibu

Founders of The Emily Shane Foundation, (left to right) Michel and Ellen Shane, and friends Maggie Castle and Melissa Smith at the Annual 'Wings over Malibu' charity event. Photo by Devon Meyers.

For some kids, there isn’t anyone in their life who will say things such as, “I believe in you,” or “You can do this,” or “I think you’re terrific,” but for foundations such as the Emily Shane Foundation, that’s what’s critical for students and their academic success.

“Every single child needs to hear that, it makes a tremendous difference to them, that alone can provide a feeling of self worth and encourage them to try to start becoming motivated to achieve academic success,” Emily Shane Foundation founder Ellen Shane said. “Your support allows us to help these kids.”

The nonprofit, now in its 10th year of operation, held its annual fundraiser on April 21 for its Successful Educational Achievement (SEA) program, which aids disadvantaged Los Angeles and Ventura County middle schoolers struggling in school. The foundation honors the life of Malibu local and Ellen Shane’s daughter, Emily Shane, who was killed walking along PCH in 2010 at age 13. The SEA program provides critical academic one-on-one tutoring and mentorship to struggling middle school students at risk of failure and solely serves those who cannot otherwise afford this necessary help outside the classroom. The program helps give these children hope, confidence, and a future. 

“I feel that middle school is a critical time for a student’s life. If they’re failing or struggling, it’s a great time to help them get them on track and get them on a solid footing before they head to high school; it’s not that it’s too late in high school, it’s just a lot harder,” Shane said. “What lies in the years ahead is really in the hands of our youth and I feel like every student really does deserve the opportunity to be set on a positive pathway for themselves and their future, and education is really the ticket to that.”

The evening provided an opportunity to bid for luxury resort packages and even a tour of Jay Leno’s Big Dog Productions garage. Shane said it was originally supposed to be in the 2020 Wings Over Malibu live auction, but it was canceled due to COVID-19. 

“They were so kind to honor it for this year. What really impressed us was that Mr. Leno himself called when this was first under consideration,” Shane said. “He wanted to verify that we were truly conducting the work we outlined to them and something he’d personally want to support. We are so grateful — this helped us raise funds to serve the kids in need identified for our SEA Program.”

During the event, students that are a part of the SEA program had handwritten notes around the venue expressing their gratitude to the program and their mentors. 

Malibu Middle School student Leah Bizarro was a part of SEA and was able to get her grades up, thanks to her mentor, Eva.

“I just want to thank Eva — mentors like you make a big difference for children and I’m really appreciative,” Leah’s mom, Jamie Olgwin, said. “I’d also like to thank the Emily Shane Foundation, because if it wasn’t for this program, Leah wouldn’t have improved so much.”

As Emily Shane was a caring, generous individual, the foundation’s motto, “Pass It Forward,” encourages students to perform good deeds for others.

“I would like to say that I am truly so very grateful to all who came, who donated, and who participated in the auctions,” Ellen Shane said. “This work is so close to my heart, and each middle schooler’s individual improvement is the greatest reward.”

Shane continued to thank her sponsors, Duke’s Malibu restaurant, mentors and her husband, Michel Shane, who is also the board chair of the foundation. 

“He is incredibly supportive of me and this work, and helps me so much with many aspects of the foundation,” Shane said. “We are both grateful to the Malibu community and all others who support our work and make it possible for us to carry out our mission of making a difference for those students in need who we serve right here in Malibu, and at the other sites across LA and Ventura Counties.”

Shane said Strange Family Vineyards has also been donating a percentage of sales during their “Wine on Thursdays,” from 3 to 6 p.m. at their tasting room at the Malibu Lumber Yard, to benefit the SEA Program. Participants have one more opportunity to participate on April 28.