Valerie ChesnikPhilanthropic Spirit
By Rebecca Anderson-Brown, Kate Bast, Lisa Bauer, Shelby Deering, Elle Duncombe-Mills, Jenie Gao, Emily Leas, Marni McEntee, Candice Wagener & Rachel Werner | Photographed by Hillary Schave
As a child, Valerie Chesnik had lemonade stands and helped her mom with silent auctions. She asked birthday party guests to donate books instead of bring presents. That philanthropic spirit led her to a career at the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools, where Chesnik increased corporate support by 10 percent in one year and created a wildly popular fundraiser that has school principals dressing up like Beyonce and Prince.
Lip Sync for Schools showcases stage battles between local celebrities, school officials and community leaders. In 2016, the event raised lots of new donors and $25,000 for the Foundation. Chesnik, the Foundation’s communications and development manager, now consults with education foundations across the country that want to replicate her winning idea.
With friends, Chesnik also recently spearheaded a nonprofit: the Madison Needs Network, granting urgent wishes for local organizations. Its current campaign is a winter clothes drive for the homeless. Now she’s on task to build a website through the Needs Network with a database for Dane County nonprofits to better connect with volunteers and resources.
“I dream big and am not afraid to take risks,” she says. “Not all ideas pan out, but then you hit on something like a lip sync contest, and it’s all worth it.” –Lisa Bauer