Which Walmart Heir is Behind a Walton Family Foundation Grant for Postpartum Depression?

Depression is often an undiagnosed or undertreated problem. The same holds true for postpartum depression, and the consequences can be serious, not just for the mother, but for the baby and the rest of the family. It's an issue that's beginning to show up more and more, in the news and as storylines on TV shows, and in philanthropy.

The Ben and Lucy Ana Walton Fund of the Walton Family Foundation are helping to bring some needed attention to the subject with a recent grant to the Postpartum Support International (PSI), an organization to help women suffering perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. The grant will strengthen postpartum treatment in the state of Colorado, although PSI has global connections.

According to PSI, the Walton Family Foundation grant will enable PSI to help women to access perinatal mental health services, and expand capacity.

"With the support from the Ben and Lucy Ana Walton Fund, our goal is to create a model that can be utilized in other states to strengthen the safety net for families," said Wendy Davis, Ph.D., Executive Director of PSI, in a press release. The amount of the grant was not given.

This grant is interesting not just because it takes aim at such an important but undertreated medical problem, but also because it suggests that Walton Family Foundation's grants may not fit so neatly into the foundation's own designated funding categories. The foundation's website lists the areas Walton is well-known for supporting: K-12 education, the environment and their home regions of Northwest Arkansas and the Delta region of Arkansas and Mississippi.

A postpartum depression program based in Colorado obviously doesn't fit into any of those categories. But it could signal the shape of some of Walmart Family Foundation's future giving.

In fact, we've been seeing more signs that different pots of money exist within this foundation, reflecting the diverse interests of heirs from a sprawling Walton family. 

As noted, the postpartum depression grant came out of the Ben and Lucy Ana Walton Fund of the Walton Family Foundation. Ben is a grandson of Walmart founder Sam Walton. Ben's wife, the former Lucy Ana Aviles, is from Chile, and plays a role in the couple's philanthropy, and their interests evidently drove this grant. The couple lives in Denver—obviously, that's the connection for the postpartum grant—where they're active philanthropists, funding issues including children's education, health and wellbeing, and housing/homelessness.

Their fund has also given to Lucy Ana's home country: last year they sent $1.5 million worth of medical supplies to hospitals and rural clinics in Chile, in a grant spearheaded by Lucy Ana.

In a similar fashion, as we have reported, the Rob and Melani Walton Fund (Rob is Ben's dad) of the Walton Family Foundation is giving $5.5 million annually over five years to Arizona State University, for a total of $27.5 million, money first committed back in 2012. The interest in clean energy generation is also not a stated focus of Walton Family Foundation, but would seem to be a strong interest of Rob and Melani.

These gifts may suggest that the children and grandchildren of Walmart Family Foundation creators Sam and Helen Walton not only have an active role within the foundation, but that the foundation itself may be poised to broaden or alter its  overall giving strategies. Or, perhaps more likely, that the individual funds run by the Walton heirs will continue to develop their own giving interests and strategies, even if they retain a formal connection to the original family foundation.

The individual family funds could present new opportunities for grantseekers, but ones that may be hard to find, remaining under the personal control of the Walton heirs themselves. But given the size of Walmart Family Foundation's giving—nearly $375 million in 2015, with an estimated $2 billion to go out by 2020—the sums in the sub-family funds could be substantial.