2017 Giraffe Award Recipients

Giraffe Awards are given to individuals or organizations who have courageously advocated and worked to build a better future for Wisconsin’s children and families—notably for children and families of color and those furthest from opportunity. In essence, they have “stuck their necks out for children, families, and community.” Join us in honoring our 2017 Giraffe Award recipients at our annual fundraising event Step Forward for Kids.

Bronson Koenig, member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, former University of Wisconsin basketball star, and current member of the Milwaukee Bucks has wowed fans on-and-off the basketball court. During his time as a Wisconsin Badger, Koenig helped lead the team to two Final Four appearances and two Big Ten Conference Championships. Equally impressive is Koenig’s advocacy and commitment to helping improve the well-being of the Native American community. He has embraced being a role model for Native youth and has traveled throughout the country meeting and speaking with youth and hosting basketball clinics. In late 2016, Koenig traveled to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation to lend his support to those protecting the land and water, and opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline. Koenig has also been vocal about opposing Native American names and images as sports mascots.

Douglas Nelson is the retired President and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF). He is a leading advocate for children and a widely recognized expert on policies and community-based responses to improve the lives of at-risk children and their families. He is also regarded as one of America’s leading thinkers on the strategic role of philanthropy in advancing racial justice and positive social change.  He assumed the presidency of the Casey Foundation in 1990 and, for 20+ years, led AECF through one of the most remarkable and innovative transformations of a philanthropic organization—from a moderately-sized regional institution providing foster care services to disadvantaged children to one of the nation’s most influential and respected large foundations. In 2010, President Jimmy Carter singled out Nelson for his extraordinary contributions “to our most disinvested and disenfranchised populations and to the overall betterment of America’s philanthropic missions. Such leaders are all too rare.”

Mr. Nelson currently serves as Chair of the Board of Directors of the CDC Foundation; Program Chair for Health, Peace and Human Rights on the Board of Trustees of the Carter Center; Vice Chair of the Heart Mountain Foundation; Senior Advisor to the Race to Equity Project, a groundbreaking initiative to reduce the state of Wisconsin’s exceptionally wide racial disparities between whites and populations of color. Nelson is also a director of Case Commons, Inc. (New York City) and Forward Community Investments (Madison, WI). He previously served as Chair of Living Cities, a national collaboration of America’s major foundations and corporations involved in equitable urban development; Vice Chair of the Foundation Center; and  Chair of the East Baltimore Development Initiative.

Among other recognition, Mr. Nelson has received an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities   from Suffolk University; an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy from The Johns Hopkins University, a Whitney M. Young Award from the Urban League; and the Jane Addams Distinguished Leadership Award by the United Neighborhood Centers of America, Inc.  In 2016, a national survey conducted by Living Cities named Nelson as one of America’s “Top 25 Disruptive Leaders” in America’s struggle for racial and social justice.


VAHSAid is a student driven-organization from Verona Area High School whose mission is to deliver aid to the impoverished citizens of Dane County and Wisconsin. In the spring of 2017, the group hosted a “camp out” to raise awareness about child poverty and food insecurity in Dane County and across Wisconsin. They were able to collect 2,333 pounds of items for the Badger Prairie Needs Network and $1037 for Kids Forward.