How This Folk-Rock Legend Helps At-Risk Kids

Paul Simon, one half of Simon & Garfunkel, graced the 1960s folk-rock scene with reflective and melodic hits like "Sounds of Silence" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Following the duo's 1970 breakup, Simon continued to be a creative and commercial force, with hits like "Mother and Child Reunion" and "Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes." Simon is yet another ultra-popular artist who's earned quite a bit of money over the years, with some estimates pegging his net worth at $45 million. Over the years, Simon has raised funds for amfAR, which works in AIDS research, the Nature Conservancy, the Fund for Imprisoned Children in South Africa, Autism Speaks, and Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation, which aims to end the cycle of domestic violence.

A key component of this music legend's philanthropy, though, involves the Children's Health Fund (CHF), which he co-founded with Brooklyn-born physician and public health activist Dr. Irwin Redlener in the late 1980s. Simon and Redlener toured the Martinique Hotel, a shelter for homeless families in New York City, and after witnessing the conditions under which homeless children lived, founded CHF.

According to its website, the fund works specifically to:

  • Support a national network of pediatric programs in some of the nation's most disadvantaged rural and urban communities;
  • Ensure support of its flagship pediatric programs for homeless and other medically underserved children in New York City;
  • Advocate for policies and programs which will ensure access to medical homes that provide comprehensive and continuous health care for all children;
  • Educate the general public about the needs and barriers to health care experienced by disadvantaged children.

The New York Children's Health Project was the first program in what would eventually become Children's Health Fund's national network of programs. The program began with one big blue bus, "a state-of-the-art mobile medical clinic that would bring care directly to those children with the least access." Over the years, Children's Health Fund has applied this formula widely, and now provides care through innovative pediatric care programs and affiliates that serve children in poor communities across the country. According to its website, the "network has cared for over 350,000 children in some of the most disadvantaged rural and urban communities in the nation."

Children's Health Fund has also engaged the public health arena, and has "campaigned in support of expanding health insurance coverage for low-income children, as well as public health programs that provide a critical safety net for millions of medically underserved children." A component of CHF also deals in disaster preparedness and relief, helping those affected by natural disasters such as Hurricane Andrew, and more recently, Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy.

While childrens' health is Simon's best known focus, his philanthropy might involve other channels.

Related: Paul Simon Guide