Donor Stories

Tom and Trudy Kennedy honored with 2024 Forever Friends Award

June 14, 2024

By La Crosse Community Foundation

La Crosse Community Foundation names 2024 Forever Friends

Forever Friends honorees Tom and Trudy Kennedy pose for a photo

Tom and Trudy Kennedy

When he was 12, Tom Kennedy’s grandfather told him something that has guided his life ever since: “Never forget if you do the right thing, you’ll get the right outcomes.” That one sentence has served as a guide ever since, shaping a lifetime of philanthropy and service with his wife Trudy that has earned them the 2024 Forever Friends award.

The Forever Friends Award recognizes individuals who have made significant and enduring contributions to the community.

Forever Friends born and raised in La Crosse area

Both Tom and Trudy were born and raised in the area. Tom has served on many nonprofit boards of directors, including the La Crosse Community Foundation, Red Cross, and La Crosse Symphony Orchestra, as well as on the Onalaska School District board. Meanwhile, Trudy served as a Brownie co-leader and volunteered at their daughters’ schools and as a master gardener.

Together, the Kennedys have worked to raise money for everything from community initiatives to St. Patrick’s Church and the Onalaska School District. Most recently, they chaired the task force that studied Onalaska’s referendum for the new middle school, which is now under construction.

Tom’s Grocery Bag Fund

One of their most impactful contributions is the establishment of Tom’s Grocery Bag Fund in Onalaska. The initiative was born out of a need identified by Sheila Garrity, former La Crosse Community Foundation executive director, who started Jim’s Grocery Bag Fund in La Crosse in memory of her late husband, Jim Gokey. The fund supports food pantries, so school children in need can take food home on weekends when school breakfast and lunch aren’t available.

The Kennedys, Tom’s family, and community members raised significant funds through various events and campaigns. Our goal was to get it to $100,000, and now [at more than $170,000] schools will receive increasing annual contributions,” said Tom.

Humility and Dedication to Service

When asked about receiving the Forever Friends Award, the Kennedys said they didn’t think they deserved it. “So many people do so much more,” said Tom.

“Their humility and dedication to service are precisely why Tom and Trudy Kennedy are being recognized,” said La Crosse Community Foundation CEO Jamie Schloegel. “I can say without hesitation that their impact is immeasurable. Their dedication to the greater La Crosse area embodies the spirit of service and community that we celebrate with this award.”

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Sheila Garrity receives Distinguished Service Award

Sheila Garrity headshot

Sheila Garrity

In addition to the Forever Friends Award, La Crosse Community Foundation honored Sheila Garrity with the Distinguished Service Award. Garrity was the foundation’s first full-time executive director, serving nearly 25 years. Under her leadership, the foundation’s assets increased from $7.8 million to more than $66 million, the number of funds grew from 34 to 220, and annual grant and scholarship distributions soared from $304,600 to over $3.2 million.

“Sheila’s steadfast commitment to the mission of the community foundation, along with her gift for building relationships with people who want to do good for their community, means the greater La Crosse area will be for good, forever,” said Schloegel, adding that her commitment and service to the community hasn’t stopped. “You can still find Sheila volunteering her time and expertise to help area nonprofits.”