Recently, SpongeBob Squarepants creator Stephen Hillenburg announced that he has been diagnosed with ALS, the neurodegenerative disease. In a statement, he also said, "Anyone who knows me knows that I will continue to work on SpongeBob SquarePants and my other passions for as long as I am able."
In the wake of his announcement, Hillenburg has received an outpouring of support, a testament to how much the quirky underworld exploits of Spongebob, Squidward, et al, resonated beyond the typical purview of an animated kids show.
With Hillenburg in the news, it also might be useful to look at his philanthropy. Not too long ago, we kept a close eye on the late Sam Simon, The Simpsons co-creator who emerged as a robust giver as he battled cancer, becoming a major champion of animals.
Stephen Hillenburg and his wife Karen already have a foundation, aptly dubbed the United Plankton Charitable Trust, through which they move their philanthropic contributions. United Plankton was established last decade and bears the name of Hillenburg's television and film production company, United Plankton Pictures. Interestingly enough, Oklahoma-born/Anaheim raised Hillenburg was once a marine biology teacher, and eventually translated his CalArts MFA into uncanny success in television. It's unclear how much he's worth, but one estimate puts his net worth at $90 million.
Recent grantmaking from the United Plankton Charitable Trust has been under $500,000 annually, with the Hillenburgs focusing on areas of personal interest to them. Los Angeles County native Karen has a culinary background, and also has an interest in the arts. The couple has supported places like Armory Center for the Art, LACMA, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, Pasadena Art Alliance, and the Society for the Activation of Social Space through Art and Sound (SASSAS), an organization that advocates for the "creation, presentation, and recognition of experimental art and sound practices in the Greater Los Angeles area."
The couple also supports the UCLA Foundation and the Polytechnic School in Pasadena, which their son attended. In health, grantees include the National MS Society, the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Los Angeles, and the IGN Foundation, which supports research into Oligo tumors, a rare type of brain tumor.
With the personal stakes involved and the Hillenburg couple's steady track record of giving, this is a Hollywood couple to watch carefully in the coming years. For a full overview of this funder's work, read our Glitzy Giving Profile linked below.
Related: Stephen and Karen Hillenburg