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Death, Love, and Dow Chemical

June 7, 2009

Like a phoenix that rises from death to bring life and hope, a school for impoverished children is rising from a sandlot in Mekele, Ethiopia, brought about by circumstances that are tragic, romantic, transatlantic, and credited, in part, to co-workers at Dow Chemical. 

Following a global business team meeting in New Orleans, a Dow Chemical colleague of mine, Max Robinson, shared the tragic story of his 5-year-old son’s drowning and the unspeakable grief that followed.  Nicolas was an adorable child with a knack for drawing rainbows. Driven to memorialize his young son, Max travelled from his home in Switzerland to Africa to help the world’s most destitute children.

Fast forward a few years: Max meets up with Kathryn Lewis, a former college classmate and the reunion sparks more than a trip down Memory Lane.  Kathryn, a world adventurer, is not only taken with Max, but also with his efforts to help those less fortunate in Ethiopia.  Through her connections, they form an alliance with a disabled veterans group in the Tigray region (Mekele, capitol) to help educate the children of its members, who are at high risk of falling through the cracks of society.

Max and Kathryn launch the Rainbows for Children Foundation ( and, with the support of friends, family, and past and present co-workers from Dow, they begin construction on the Nicolas School in Mekele.

But as the walls take form, a tragedy is unfolding on the other side of the Atlantic.  Laura Wolf, a beautiful and carefree 17 year old, an adventurer in her own right, dies in a car accident.  Her death strikes a shuddering blow not only to her parents and family, but also to the entire community of Merrimack, NH where the Wolf family is beloved for their kindness and generosity.  Among those affected, my family and I reached out to find some way of doing good in the wake of misery following Laura’s death.  Remembering the story of my Dow colleague, my family and I sponsored the construction of the Laura Wolf playground at the Nicolas School.   Joined by other Dow colleagues, the Wolf family, and countless supporters from Merrimack and beyond, we establish Laura’s World Fund.  Like the determination of Max to remember Nicolas, we want to make sure that Laura’s spirit lives on in children around the world, especially in Mekele.  Our fundraising supports expansion of the Nicolas School, and this summer, its fourth phase of construction will be close to completion. 

800 children will be attending the Nicolas School this fall and countless more will have their lives changed, all because two other children lived and died, a couple fell in love, and Dow Chemical colleagues connected. 

See the school and children here:

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 7, 2009 12:44 pm

    What a moving story, RR.

    • rungster permalink*
      June 7, 2009 1:01 pm

      Thanks, Jeannine! I’m still trying to get a handle on this blog thing to use as an outlet for my thoughts. I appreciate your visit and feedback!

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