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About the Foundation

Avielle Rose Richman was one of twenty-six children and educators tragically killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT on December 14th, 2012. Avielle’s parents, Jennifer and Jeremy, are infinitely heart broken, and like so many of you, want to bring about changes to stop a tragedy such as this from happening to any community — ever again.

The Avielle Foundation has been created to honor their loving daughter — along with all the others who have fallen victim to senseless violence — by truly understanding what leads someone to engage in such harmful behavior. We’re working closely with world leaders in two vital areas: brain health research and community building.

Objective #1: Understand the Underpinnings in the Brain That Lead to Malevolent Behaviors

Too little is known in the field of brain health in regard to what drives violent behaviors.  Clearly something is wrong with a person capable of such atrocities, and there must be a better understanding of the biological and environmental factors associated with these pathologies.  Once a deeper understanding has been established, we can apply these insights to educate healthcare providers and communities about identifying and responsibly advocating for those at risk of violent behaviors.  We can develop and put into practice innovative policies to facilitate counseling, education, and pharmacological interventions.


Objective #2: Foster Community to Ensure That Everyone is a Valuable Community Member

Jennifer and Jeremy instilled this open-minded, open-hearted philosophy in Avielle because they know a strong community is one where every member belongs and is a valuable contributor —regardless of ethnicity, beliefs, political views, lifestyle, or social ideologies.  In such communities, individuals don’t feel ostracized, stigmatized, bullied, or alienated, and the propensity to act in desperate, destructive, or violent ways is diminished or eliminated.  Citizenship in a community goes beyond fitting in — it comes with responsibility.

In all the Avielle Foundation does, it’s our goal to understand the biological and environmental factors that impact the brain, leading to malevolent behaviors. We must build communities where all individuals are included, given a contributing role, and kept safe. We must take action to ensure what happened to Avielle does not happen again.

2013-09-02 Newtown Parade (18)

Our Mission

The mission of The Avielle Foundation is to prevent violence by fostering brain health research, education, and policy; and community development, engagement, and responsibility.  The foundation will do so by directing resources to support:

  1. Breakthrough research in brain health, bridging behavioral and biochemical sciences
  2. Community-based initiatives and programs which which strengthen connectivity, empathy, and understanding.
Our Scope

The Avielle Foundation was incorporated in January, 2013 and is an IRS approved 501(c)3 tax-exempt and non-profit charitable organization.  The overarching goal of the Avielle Foundation is to reduce violence and protect vulnerable populations. This will be accomplished with a two-pronged approach:

  • Facilitating novel brain health research, education, and policy;
  • Fostering community development, engagement, and responsibility.

With these efforts we hope to: remove stigmas and barriers for people seeking brain health aid; develop the concept of a standard “brain health check-up”; identify behavioral and biochemical diagnostics for early detection of individuals at-risk of violent behaviors and facilitate their responsible use; provide conduits to effective treatments; and strengthen communities, compassion, and respect.

Funding for the planned objectives is being procured through private donations, non-profit matching funds from corporations, corporate donations, and grant solicitation.  Fundraising and organizational development will be the focus of the first year of the Foundation and then on-going.  Founders and Members of the Board of Directors will actively solicit funds from potential individual donors and interested entities, as well as community-based fundraisers.  Thereafter, planning for dissemination of resources to support Research and Community will be determined by the Board of Directors with an open application process and creation of a non-biased committee for grantee selection.  It is anticipated that the funds will be distributed approximately 80% toward research efforts and 20% community-based efforts, at least initially.

The Avielle Foundation Board and Founders have been actively meeting with experts in brain health, leaders in public health and education, policy makers, and community organizers.  These include Nobel laureate Dr. Paul Greengard; Head of the Department of Psychiatry at Yale, Dr John Krystal; Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan; Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius; brain researchers at the world’s premier research institutions, including the UCSF Sandler Neuroscience Center; President Obama, Vice-president Biden, the Office of Science & Technology Policy, the National Institute of Health, numerous Senators and members of the House of Representatives; and numerous psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, neurologists, neuroscientists, and social workers.  The goal of these meetings has been to gain a deeper understanding of what is known and what is not known in the brain health fields, how to remove brain health stigmatization, and how to most effectively prevent violence through brain health research initiatives and community engagement.

A research fellowship and grant selection process will be used to determine where the Avielle Foundation funds will be distributed.  The successful applicant will be chosen in one of three research areas:

  1. Novel research, focused on understanding the behavioral and biochemical mechanisms of violence
  2. Strengthening brain health education
  3. Strengthening and developing brain health policies.

The Board will begin accepting applications for research support by the end of 2013 and releasing funds in the first quarter of 2014.  Many of the world’s leaders in the neurosciences, psychiatry, clinical psychology, neurology, and social work have agreed to serve on a selection committee to review and prioritize potential research fellow recipients of the Avielle Foundation funding and grants.

The Avielle Foundation funding of community development, engagement, and responsibility will take on a number of potential forms.  These include supporting community centers and other public meeting areas, fostering discussion and education groups, Pre-K through grade 12 programs (e.g. 26 Acts of Kindness Programs), and community service grants.  The goal of the community efforts is to foster connectivity and brain health education.  Like the research grant selection committees, the Avielle Foundation’s Board of Directors will invite community leaders and educators to chair a committee tasked with prioritizing funding initiatives as well as assessing milestones and the successes of previous years.