Tulalip Tribes members begin the Raising Hands night on Oct. 26 with a traditional song.


The Tulalip Tribes celebrated the organizations that they support through charitable funding at their annual Raising Hands celebration on Oct. 26.

As economic businesses grew in Tulalip through the years, the Tribes started the Tulalip Cares Charitable Foundation which now gives millions of dollars out each year to organizations in the region.

This year they gave away $7.3 million and have given away $98.8 million since the foundation's beginning.

"We're very grateful for the gift gaming has given us," said Tulalip Tribal board member Mel Sheldon Jr.

"We know what it is like to go without," he said. "We weren't always in this position."

The Tribes have gone through more difficult periods before economic growth.

"Tulalip Tribes started out with three employees many, many years ago. Today we have 3,877 direct employees," said Sheldon.

"That's all contributing to a larger economy, and that's what it's all about," he said.

Sheldon said that the Tulalip Tribes are part of the larger community and that he wants them to move forward with other people in the region.

"We all have the same thing in mind. We want this region to be the best and for it to be safe and secure to have a healthy life here in Snohomish County," he said.

Their Raising Hands night highlights some of the organizations the Tulalip Tribes is supporting through charitable donations.

Groups like Friends of the San Juans who work to protect habitat that is important for the Salish Sea.

"They hope to preserve the beauty, character and wilderness of the islands in the face of increasing development," said Sheldon.

Executive director Stephanie Buffum said that the group's role has grown from encouraging responsible development to making sure international shipping isn't destroying important habitat.

"The San Juan islands are at the center of the Salish Sea. We're home to critical habitat for resident killer whales, we're home to over eight million residents that call the Salish Sea home and over 119 federally endangered species," she said.

Spark Northwest is another environmental group that was featured at the event.

Linda Irvine, program director for the organization, said that they are "dedicated to advancing locally controlled clean energy across Washington and Oregon."

They help communities find how best to work with grant programs and other options to bring cleaner energy to their communities, often with strong senses of local control.

"We plan community solar projects. We have wind turbines that are owned, but cooperatively. The idea is a local community decides what they need and we help them achieve that vision," said Irvine.

Other programs at the event helped with healthcare, like March of Dimes, "whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality," said Ken Kettler, president of the Tulalip Resort Casino.

"The major part of our mission is focused on prematurity and making sure that moms have the opportunity to carry their baby to term," said Kristen Miller, development manager for March of Dimes.

Operation Homefront provides services that help military families better integrate into unfamiliar communities.

They provide "programs that provide relief through financial assistance and transitional housing programs," said Sheldon.

Olivia Burley, senior director for the organization, said there are a number of military members in Snohomish County and Operation Homefront helps with a number of programs, such as the Back to School Brigade.

"The program provides backpacks and school supplies so they can go back to school on the right foot," she said.

Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Puget Sound is the local branch of the national program which provides mentors to local youth and is another recipient of Tulalip Tribes support.

"It's really important that all youth feel they have a caring adult that is not also their parent. That is part of their life and is their root for them, their advocate for them," said Louis Garcia, CEO and president of the organization.

The Lhaq'temish Foundation was the final organization featured, and they are a group that supports the Lummi nation.

"They take a holistic approach to empowering their people and being inclusive to all of the Lummi community," said Kettler.

Their biggest event this year was a canoe journey that brought more than 100 canoes from around the Puget Sound to their home.

"The premier event this year was the Paddle to Lummi, but there are so many more projects that we provide to our community. Like the Lummi Stepping Stones that help takes care of our homelessness," said Candice Wilson, executive director for the organization.

More information about the Tulalip Cares Charitable Foundation is available at tulalipcares.org.

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