Milagro Foundation: Carlos Santana Shares the Love
Carlos Santana is not just one of Woodstock’s most legendary performers; he is also one of America’s most generous philanthropists.
Music Can Heal the World
You know you have the greatest job in the world when you get to wake up and say, “I want to do what the United Nations and the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu and Barack Obama could not do, bring people together in peace through music.” This is how Carlos Santana gets to live his life.
Carlos Santana is not just one of Woodstock’s most legendary performers; he is also one of America’s most generous philanthropists. For decades, Carlos Santana has performed at many fundraising events and donated to dozens of initiatives, most supporting the health and welfare of low-income children in vulnerable communities.
Woodstock was the first thing that I ever saw that had humans capable to live with unity and harmony. It left an incredible impression on me.
An appreciative man by nature, Santana was especially grateful for his Woodstock experience. In August 1969, his band was virtually unknown outside the Bay Area and their first album had not yet been released. Their mind-blowing Woodstock performance helped make their first album, Santana reach #4 on the Billboard charts.
Carlos Santana's greatest philanthropic accomplishment is the highly acclaimed and now Coolest Charity in the World, Milagro Foundation which he founded with his family in 1998. Milagro (Miracle, in Spanish) is a grant-making organization that benefits the health, education, and well being of underserved children. Recipients of Milagro’s nearly $8 million in grants include 400 organizations in 18 countries and 36 US states.
A Mission to Support Underserved Children
The Milagro foundation’s beneficiaries over the past 20 years have been as diverse as Santana’s music. From the UN World Food Programme-backed Hippo Water Project to The Mosaic Project’s outdoor school, a place where children of all shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds come together to discover themselves and each other.
This year, Milagro is focusing its efforts in the local communities closest to Carlos Santana and his wife Cindy’s hearts: San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. Santana’s 2019 Las Vegas residency supports Milagro’s literacy initiatives at 57 Nevada schools. Supporting young victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence are also a top priority.
Immigration policies and separation of families are also on Carlos Santana’s mind. He recently wrote to President Trump, "I believe in YOU. Your light can make a difference on our great nation. When the power of love replaces YOUR love for power. Divinity is who you really are… LIGHT. Peace to you, Your family and all your immigrant employees."
I want to do what the United Nations and the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu and Barack Obama could not do, bring people together in peace through music. Music can heal the world. I learned from the Black Panthers, the Kennedys, and Martin Luther King Jr., utilize music to create peace.
Shelley Brown, Milagro Foundation’s Executive Director explained in our email conversation, “Our mission has always been to support low income underserved children around the world in arts, education, and health. This includes support for agencies that welcome new immigrants everywhere.
Among the many things that make Milagro so cool is their understanding of what is within their scope and what opportunities are beyond the reach of an organization their size. “Our first ten years, we received hundreds of grant requests from agencies serving children from around the world.”
“Ten years ago, we made a decision to no longer accept unsolicited grants. We changed our philosophy and primarily focused on support for agencies that we did have a history with as well as agencies that we researched in areas that we felt compelled to support,” says Brown. For an organization like Milagro, the spiritual inspiration may originate with its founders, but the impact of its work is measured and managed by its talented and committed board of directors. Being cool is great, focusing on a mission, diligently vetting grantees, and reporting on accountability is what makes Milagro one of the Coolest Charities in the World.
In addition to his work with Milagro, Santana has participated in many of the most important musical fundraising events including 1985’s USA of Africa which raised more than $60 million for African famine relief and 2011’s Bridge Concert with Arcade Fire, Neil Young, Dave Matthews, and others.
Over a decade ago, Carlos Santana's generosity also helped launch Little Kids Rock, the largest free instrumental program in the US. The nonprofit which has provided instruments to over 300,000 kids began with a gift of guitars from Santana. The inspiration for Little Kids Rock may also have come from Woodstock. During the opening moments of Santana’s Soul Sacrifice percussionist Mike Carabello sets the beat and the crowd claps along. Santana must have been stunned to look down on the crowd and see a guy tapping along on the most subtle and mind-blowing of all instruments, a triangle. Who brings a triangle to a rock concert?
Today, those kids from low-income families in under-resourced schools are now teens thinking about college -- if they only had the access and means to pay for it. “We are passionate about support for helping first generation students to college. Research shows that one major path to interrupt the cycle of poverty is a college education. The effects are reverberating, not only the graduate benefits but future generations in the graduates’ family. This is very important to Carlos and we are hoping to focus on this area in the future.” This is a deep commitment coming from Carlos and Cindy Santana, Shelley Brown, the entire Milagro team, and every donor who supports them.
Donations to Milagro Foundation are tax-deductible and can be made at http://milagrofoundation.org. For more information please use the link above or contact the author.