Computer mogul Bill Gates' charitable foundation donated $1 million Monday to a Beverly Hills nonprofit organization founded by actor and director Rob Reiner to raise public awareness about the importance of early childhood development.
With the grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the I Am Your Child Foundation will expand its promotion of good parenting techniques and its support for national groups and state agencies that focus on early childhood health and learning.
The foundation has produced more than a dozen videotapes for parents and caregivers on issues ranging from brain development to discipline, narrated by celebrities such as Andy Garcia, Phylicia Rashad and Dr. T. Berry Brazelton. The group creates media campaigns that provide information on prenatal care, child safety, family bonding and nutrition.
"We are very grateful, because this gives us an opportunity to expand our horizons," said Reiner, who has worked with Melinda Gates on early education issues in Washington state.
Reiner and his wife established the foundation in 1997 in an effort to disseminate more information about how babies' and young children's brains develop and need proper stimulation.
"We're arguing that the first phase in life is as important, if not more, than any other and the financial commitment should be appropriate," said Executive Director Michael Levine. According to Reiner, "the idea behind the foundation was to raise awareness about the importance of teaching children how to learn in the early years, getting this information to parents and caregivers, and influencing public policy."
Its officials say Gates' $1-million gift will be a significant boost to the foundation, which has had an average annual budget of about $3 million.
The organization has united a coalition of more than 150 national organizations and government agencies working to promote family and community involvement in young children's healthy development. It has also sponsored various initiatives in Washington, New Jersey, Virginia and in the nation's capital.
In California, Reiner's experience with the foundation led him to spearhead the 1998 California ballot initiative that placed a 50-cent tax on tobacco products to fund child care and anti-tobacco programs for children up to age 5.
The announcement of the donation came the same day that Bill Gates' company, Microsoft Inc., filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., seeking to overturn a lower court's decision to break up the computer giant.
Gates Foundation Public Affairs Director Trevor Neilson said the two events have nothing to do with one another. "Bill and Melinda have endowed their foundation with over $20 billion to address fundamental problems that pervade our society," he said, adding, "We make grants every single day."
Neilson said the foundation chose I Am Your Child because Reiner is "unusually dedicated, and the work they are doing on raising awareness about the earliest years is crucial for our society."