Stories of Giving: Psychologist and philanthropist Philip Wenk, Ph.D., MBA, helps young people thrive amid challenges

Photo of Philip Wenk

Philip Wenk’s grandfather inspired him to be part of the solution. It’s a lesson he’s carried through his life both professionally as a child psychologist and as a philanthropist dedicated to helping young people thrive, even amidst the most challenging circumstances.  

Wenk’s professional background as a child and adolescent psychologist specializing in trauma gives him a window into the impact that emotional pain can have on children and their families, and it’s what drives his approach to charitable giving. 

“Any chance I get to serve children, I’m in,” Wenk said. 

Toward healing 

Few people, even those who’ve lived through traumatic experiences, fully appreciate just how extensive the damage can be, according to Wenk. 

“We’re moving in the right direction in terms of talking about trauma, but it’s still tragically pervasive in our society,” he said. “It creates development issues in children, relationship issues, behavioral issues; it can lead to poor life choices. Unless we address the systemic issue of trauma, we’re not going to see change.”  

Through his philanthropy, Wenk aims to help children and their families work toward healing. He established a donor advised fund at the Cleveland Foundation, through which he supports a number of youth-serving programs.  

“I’ve had the privilege to interact with some amazing folks at the Cleveland Foundation, especially Jason Weiner, my philanthropic advisor,” he said. “His wealth of knowledge, his commitment and passion help inspire me and energize me to want to do more. I’m constantly coming up with ideas, and Jason not only listens to me and encourages me, he connects me with other like-minded people and resources to bring those ideas to fruition.”  

For Wenk, utilizing a donor advised fund as one of his giving vehicles removes some of the administrative burden of grantmaking, letting him channel his efforts fully into his philanthropic goals. “Having a DAF at the Cleveland Foundation allows me to focus all my energy into service to children,” he said.  

Through his DAF, he’s supported several Northeast Ohio programs that aim to address childhood trauma through the arts, including an initiative called Power of Harmony, which introduces barbershop-style singing to incarcerated youth.  

“The arts give children a way to express what they’re thinking about and what they’re feeling,” Wenk said. “These experiences help one identify their set of gifts and discover their voices, and that has the power to change lives for good.”  

A Greater Cleveland 

Helping one child heal can create a ripple of positive energy that can impact an entire community, according to Wenk. “The greatest investment we can make is social,” he said. “The more we can invest in people, the more we can change the world.”  

He’s energized by Greater Cleveland’s philanthropic community and believes there are plenty of people like him who are unwilling to accept an environment where families continue to suffer. “We have the resources and the philanthropic commitment from this community to make Cleveland one of the greatest communities there is,” he said.  

 

Get in Touch 

To apply for a grant from the Cleveland Foundation, please visit our Grants Gateway. For more information on donor advised funds, please contact the Cleveland Foundation Advancement team at 887-554-5054. 

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