Garrett Snider is no stranger to philanthropy. From age 11, the Bryn Mawr native has been involved in volunteer programs. His latest venture, however, has taken his altruism one step further. In June, he launched the Childhood Resilience Foundation, a nonprofit focused on helping kids who’ve been abused.
“One of the particular pieces of adversity that makes me the most upset is sexual abuse, because it targets the most vulnerable population in the human race, which is children,” says Snider. “They need to be armed with the tools to fight back for their lives, because there’s nothing that causes more havoc on a young soul than abuse.”
The 21-year-old Drexel University student has seen firsthand the struggle that abused children face, having volunteered with East Norriton-based Mission Kids Child Advocacy Center since he was a teenager. “Organizations like Mission Kids really walk the walk, because they want to empower children,” says Snider.
He also credits his grandfather, the late Ed Snider, with some of his drive. The Philadelphia icon once owned the 76ers and part of the Eagles. Perhaps most notably, he was the chairman of Comcast Spectacor, which owns the Flyers, a team he also co-founded. The sports magnate established the Philly-based Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation, which provides underserved children with free access to hockey programming to help them develop important life skills. “My grandfather demonstrated that a life without passion is not a happy life,” Snider says.
Bryn Mawr’s Anne Hamilton, a longtime friend of the family and a board member at CRF, believes that Snider’s entire family provides a wonderful example. “Garrett grew up with a great role model around him,” she says. “He learned at a young age what it is to give back.”
Despite his well-known name, Snider has done more than lend support. “He wasn’t just a name on the committee. He was there getting auction items, going to meetings, going around telling people about Mission Kids,” says Hamilton.
Snider’s experience with Mission Kids helped open his eyes to the many troubles children face. “Had [Mission Kids] not taken that chance on me, I would never have gotten the education that led me to this place, that made me feel like what we’re doing is necessary,” he says. “I would never have known it was a problem,” That problem can be found nationwide, with an estimated 686,000 young victims of maltreatment, according to child protective services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vast majority—78 percent—are targets of neglect. For 18 percent, the abuse is physical. For another 9 percent, it’s sexual. The remaining 11 percent have experienced emotional abuse, threats of harm, parental drug and/or alcohol abuse, and a general lack of supervision.
Pennsylvania has no shortage of childhood abuse. In 2016, CPS had 44,359 reported cases, a more than 5-percent increase from the previous year. That makes organizations like the Childhood Resilience Foundation all the more important. “There are so many children who fall through the cracks,” Hamilton says.
To arm kids—and adults—with the tools to help fight childhood abuse, the foundation has established programs that both educate and offer a safe space. Among its partner initiatives are monthly school lunch programs in the city, a program to teach educators about childhood abuse, and another that aids fostered youth who are moving to college.
Beyond helping those in need, Snider hopes the foundation brings attention to a contentious subject. “We’re able to ignite a much more robust conversation on the topics of what we need to be doing for kids who don’t have families to protect them from these things—or from families who have subjected them to these things,” he says.
Joining Snider in his pursuit is an enviable board of advisors. Monica Lewinsky, Billy King and Bill Petit are among those moving the mission forward. “We’ve created a board with incredibly loud voices, and the purpose of doing that is to ensure that, when it comes to uncomfortable topics such as abuse, nobody can look away,” says Snider.
To make an even bigger impact, the foundation has partnered with other advocacy programs, including the Vetri Community Partnership and the Beau Biden Foundation. “The Biden Foundation works to educate the next generation of child welfare professionals,” says Snider. “They are constantly offering different services and learning opportunities for adults who interact with children.”
The foundation paired up with CRF this past April for National Child Abuse Prevention Month, hosting an awareness day at a Flyers game that tied in part of Snider’s grandfather’s legacy. The event honored Joe and Jill Biden for their work against childhood abuse. “It’s a new age, where we’re able to talk about abuse in a public forum in front of a mixed audience,” Snider says.
Hamilton anticipates cooperative events like that in the future. “It’s Garrett’s idea to sort of propel children who are in tough places in their life along,” she says.