The name “Skipper Slawik” ushers in feelings of gratitude among thousands of current and former Catholic high school students throughout Ramsey County.
Skipper was just 12 years old when he died in August 1958 due to a tragic boating accident on the St. Croix River. But his memory lives on decades later through the Skipper Slawik Fund.
Stewarded by the Catholic Community Foundation of Minnesota (CCF), the endowed donor advised fund provides more than $2,000 in tuition assistance annually to 20 freshman Catholic high school students in Ramsey County. The scholarships follow the students through their four years of high school, supporting a total of 80 students each year.
Harold and Marie Slawik’s energetic and athletic son Skipper didn’t have the opportunity to attend Catholic high school. They wanted to ensure other students could, regardless of the cost. Along with their eldest son Jerry, they created the original Skipper Slawik Foundation just four months after Skipper’s death. It’s been a family affair ever since.
“Instead of being completely overwhelmed with grief, they were able to pick themselves up and think of how they could honor Skipper and do something for other children,” says Sharon Slawik, one of the advisors of the fund.
Recipients are chosen based on both academic performance and financial need. They receive the funds annually, opening the door to many families who cannot cover the full cost of a Catholic high school education.
“This fund looks at the financial realities of families,” says Brien Slawik, a third-generation family advisor of the fund. “Even though the Skipper Slawik Fund doesn’t pay the full tuition, when combined with the school and other scholarship opportunities, it opens the door more.”
The Slawik family transferred the fund to CCF in 1998. Jerry, Brien’s father and Sharon’s father-in-law, was one of the earliest supporters of CCF. He knew that CCF could seamlessly administer the fund and carry out Skipper’s legacy in an even more impactful way. Now under the advisement of Brien, Sharon, and Brien’s brother Harold, the fund continues to grow while honoring the original wishes of Harold and Marie.
They estimate that nearly 5,000 students have been impacted by the Skipper Slawik Fund. Over the years, family members have encountered grateful recipients in unexpected places — from a teenage boy bagging groceries at the local Kowalski’s to the district judge overseeing the transfer of funds to CCF.
The original intentions of Skipper’s generous and devoted parents are being honored every day, continuing a powerful legacy of philanthropy that has carried through generations of the Slawik family.
“I am so proud and honored we are to be able to keep the fund going,” says Sharon. “The tragedy of a little boy’s death has been turned into helping others who want to attend a Catholic high school. We can’t tell you how happy we are that CCF has taken over and grown the fund.”