July 13, 2023

James Keane Jr.

James Keane Jr. was just 9 years old when he made his first donation to the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Foundation, making him by far the youngest donor in the history of the organization. Today, at 29 years old, he has become the youngest member of the Perennial Society.

As a young boy, James learned about the importance of giving back. Over the years, he had saved a portion of his weekly allowance, accumulating $70. He was inspired to donate this money to the Foundation after learning about Fred Meijer’s 2- for-1 challenge grant from his grandfather, Ray Loeschner, who was founder of the Foundation. This meant James’ gift would be tripled in value.

When asked about his decision to give at such a young age, James says, “My family emphasized the importance of giving back to the Grand Rapids community. I watched them give to our church, to the school systems, and to arts organizations – they set a great example and made it a priority.”

With Ray as its founding member, the Foundation has made giving accessible and personal, and the Gardens have been part of James’ life since he was born. “I learned while leading fundraising efforts in college that people want to give to organizations they care about. And for me, it is easy to care about the Gardens.”

Yet giving to a Foundation may not be the most obvious choice for some people. “The word ‘Foundation’ can feel a bit intimidating for those unfamiliar with the concept. It just means every dollar donated makes an immediate impact but also continues to make a difference in the future.”

James took time to learn about the different giving opportunities available. “The Foundation recognizes donors who pledge a gift of $1,000 or more, which is a lot of money, but I learned any pledge can be paid off over several years. I hope others learn about the various options and find what works best for them.”

Although James no longer lives in Grand Rapids, his commitment to the Gardens remains strong. “Art is medicine for the human spirit and a gateway into the minds of other people and other cultures. I want to be part of the Gardens’ mission to be a place where everyone is welcome and included.”

When James made his original gift, he was surprised with the opportunity to hand the check directly to Fred Meijer, and he still has a picture of that moment. When he made this most recent pledge, he met instead with his grandfather Ray to tell him about his decision. Ray adds, “You can imagine how proud I was to have my grandson contribute to the Foundation campaign when he was a boy, and I’m just as proud to have him join the Perennial Society this year. I know Fred would be really touched as well.”