T. Denny Sanford commits to $300k gift to support Lost&Found’s mental health education and research efforts

SIOUX FALLS, SD — South Dakota businessman and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford has committed to a three-year, $300,000 gift to support Lost&Found, a 501(c)3 nonprofit mental health education and research organization based in Sioux Falls. The gift will be distributed in three $100,000 annual increments, starting in April 2020.

Sanford’s commitment will allow Lost&Found to connect over 25,000 college-age adults with resilience education by 2022, establish groundbreaking student mental health research efforts statewide and regionally, and strengthen partnerships across the mental health ecosystem to improve access to preventative mental health resources for the region’s young adults (ages 14-35).

“We thank Denny Sanford for his generous contribution to Lost&Found,” said Dr. Anne Kelly, Lost&Found’s board chair and tenured professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Psychology at Dakota Wesleyan University. “The gift is especially meaningful at this time as we cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. While sudden, significant change and uncertainty have the potential to increase vulnerability to mental health challenges, they also allow us to focus on positive examples of collective caring and connectedness so important to fostering resilience. This gift will allow us to strengthen programs to build resilience through adversity and improve the well-being of our state’s young adults and, particularly, college students.”

Lost&Found’s goals align with one of Sanford’s philanthropic priorities: seeking a scientific understanding of empathy and compassion, including how empathy and compassion can be increased to change people and the world. Through Sanford’s commitment, Lost&Found will build skills in a similar trait—resilience—as part of its efforts to put an end to suicide for young adults in South Dakota, the surrounding region, and the United States.

The first year of Sanford’s funding commitment will allow Lost&Found to hire top-tier talent in Sioux Falls and the surrounding region to advise student leaders and campus administrators, refine and deliver new mental health programs, and implement a five-year mental health research strategy with college campuses in South Dakota and surrounding states.

The remaining two years of the commitment will allow Lost&Found to partner with student leaders, campus administrators, and community mental health resources to pilot, test, and evaluate innovative programs that meet rising campus needs. Ultimately, Lost&Found seeks to match Sanford’s commitment with a variety of funding sources to meet its goal of reaching 25,000 students with resilience education resources by 2022.

“Mr. Sanford’s commitment to Lost&Found and our work to meet rising, unprecedented mental health needs for young adults will forever change our organization and the region’s mental health ecosystem for the better,” says Lost&Found Executive Director & CEO Erik Muckey. “Lost&Found is proud to partner with incredible mental health organizations in Sioux Falls and around the country, and we are ready to match Mr. Sanford’s catalytic generosity with additional support from the community. A new era of mental health is rising for young adults in our region, and in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, we are more than hopeful than ever that this new commitment will create a major impact.”


Lost&Found delivers resilience education and mental health resources through student-led campus chapters at the University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University, University of Sioux Falls, Dakota Wesleyan University, and Augustana University. Founded in 2010, Lost&Found takes a data-driven, strengths-based approach to suicide prevention efforts, delivering research tools that allow campus administrators to quickly understand and respond to student mental health needs with programs, policies, and people.


Heidi Marttila-Losure
Communications Director

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