With the unexpected passing of U.S. Representative Don Young this past weekend, all Alaskans have lost a fighter. One of the causes dear to his heart was the Lu Young Children’s Fund. Young’s first wife Lu Young created her Children’s Fund in 2004 to support Alaska Native Youth.
As the LYCF website reads, “she wanted the less fortunate, the sick, and homeless children of Alaska receive the resources and help they need to continue with healthy, happy lives.”
Lu Young, a Gwich’in Athabascan Native, was the third of John Fredson and Jean Ribaloff’s ten children. Her father John was the first Alaska Native to graduate from university. This accomplishment was a source of great pride and likely her charitable work’s motivation.
She met her husband when he moved to Fort Yukon, to become a school teacher in the town. Young wanted to experience life above the arctic circle. They were married for 46 years and together had two daughters and fourteen grandchildren.
She was the catalyst for him to enter politics. And, her contributions in support cannot be overstated as he successfully moved from the Mayor of Fort Yukon to the Alaska State House and Senate to the U.S. Congress, where he served until his death this past Friday. Lu Young was his rock, teammate, and life love and certainly helped to shape his will to fight for all Alaskans.
In a March 19th statement, President Joe Biden wrote of Young, “he always stayed true to who he was and the people of Alaska he represented. Tough. Loyal. A consensus builder….There is no doubt that few legislators have left a greater mark on their state….In the enhanced protections for Native tribes he championed. His legacy will continue in the America he loved.”
To support the Lu Young Children’s Fund, Don Young brought congressional members and other donors to Seward every August for their annual fishing trip, its hallmark annual fundraiser. .
At last year’s event, which included 60 donors, including eight Congressional members (AK, AR, GA-2, NC, MO, SC, TX), Young exclaimed “take care of my kids!” to organizational representatives who were present to share the impact of the LYCF’s funding. He was referring to the Alaska Native youth the organizations served. It was evident that he cared deeply for Alaska Native people and honored the legacy of his wife’s nonprofit.
The Lu Young Children’s Fund has five central goals. These include: (1) To help Native children find comfort and solace for their grief in the loss of a loved one; (2) To provide assistance with mental health challenges; (3) To nurture healthy child development; (4) To reduce the effects of trauma among children living in temporary housing; (5) To help the children understand the effects of suicide and how to cope.
“We are looking to provide Alaska Native children assistance with mental health challenges, nurture healthy child development, reduce the effects of trauma among children living in temporary housing and provide them with the tools to cope with challenges and obstacles that may stand in their way” reads the LYCF website.
Lu Young passed away in 2009. Don Young’s boisterous, booming voice and hearty sense of humor made him a memorable presence and were pivotal in sharing the mission of the LYCF. With his passing leaves a void for the advocacy work he did to champion the Lu Young Children’s Fund.
As reported by the Associated Press, in 2016, Don Young said “I’ll defend my state to the dying breath.”
And, he did.
To learn more about which Alaskan organizations receive funding or to donate to the Lu Young Children’s Fund, visit https://www.lycf.org/