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About Us


The Starfish Foundation was founded in 1998 as the Starfish Center in Madison, Wisconsin with the mission of promoting individual empowerment, wholeness and personal growth in a safe, inclusive community. For approximately five years, the organization offered this programming in Madison. Then multiple circumstances caused the Center to go on hiatus.

Patricia Clason, founder of Taking It Lightly, created the Emotional Liberty Foundation (ELF) in 1990, to provide funding for individuals who wanted to do programs like Taking It Lightly for emotional healing work and who, because of their life circumstances, were unable to afford to do so. ELF was a private foundation through the National Heritage Foundation. When changes in federal law to protect retirement funds which affected donor-advised funds, ELF and other NHF foundations were closed.

At that time, the Starfish Center became the Starfish Foundation, a charitable, educational tax-exempt (501(c)(3)) organization committed to raising funds to provide scholarships for emotional healing work. The Foundation continued to grow, adding sponsorship of programs dedicated to emotional healing for veterans.

Every year the number of scholarships and supported programs grows as people who have received scholarships pay it forward by donating time and dollars when they can to pass on the gift they received.

See our information in the BizTimes 2023 Giving Guide

Our Mission

Assist emotional trauma survivors to release their grief, rage and shame; and allow joy, productivity and prosperity back into their and their families lives.

Our Primary Goal

To provide funds for those unable to pay for participation in Taking It Lightly and Renewal, programs designed for emotional healing and trauma recovery,

and Healing Warrior Hearts,

free retreats for veterans.

Taking it Lightly Program
Healing Warrior Hearts

Starfish Board

Rob Frost - President

Ramesh Upadhyaya - Vice-President

Mark Spindler - Treasurer

Lisa Johnson - Secretary

Beck Yunk - At-Large member

Mary Harvey - At-Large member 

Nancy Guerrero - At-Large member

Laura Nitschke - At-Large member


Leslie Morgan, American Legion Post 18

John Zemler, US Army, Veteran

Veterans Program Committee
Patricia Clason, Chair

The Starfish Story

It was still early.
The mist had not yet cleared from the sea.
In the distance, a solitary figure stood throwing objects out over the water.
Walking along the debris-strewn beach, I looked at the masses of starfish scattered everywhere.
The tide had thrown them in, stranding them on the beach.
As the sun rose higher, they would perish.
Approaching the stranger, I could see that it was the starfish he was picking up and returning to the sea.
Our eyes met.
"Do you really think you can help?
There are millions of starfish on this beach.
You can help so few.
Does it really make a difference?
Does it matter?"

He reached down and picked up another starfish, looking at it intently.
"Oh yes," he replied.
"It matters to this one!"

Help Someone in Need Today!

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