In 1969, Joan Ganz Cooney had a simple but revolutionary idea: use television to teach young children. She wanted disadvantaged children to enter school with the same level of preparation as other children. Little did she know, her simple idea would quickly transform the lives of children not only in the U.S., but around the world.
Nearly 50 years after the creation of the iconic television show Sesame Street, we announced The Joan Ganz Cooney Fund for Vulnerable Children. This new fund honors Sesame Street’s co-founder and has received generous initial and matching funding from her late husband Peter G. Peterson during his life.
The fund expands Ms. Cooney’s visionary work by supporting Sesame Street in Communities—providing children and families with tools to address early learning basics, health and well-being, and most importantly, traumatic experiences like abuse, neglect, divorce, or the incarceration of a parent. Working hand-in-hand with on-the-ground community providers, Sesame Street in Communities delivers critical resources to families in the U.S. who need them most, bolstering nurturing relationships between children and the caring adults in their lives. Just as Ms. Cooney recognized the crucial importance of the early childhood years, Sesame Street in Communities focuses on children from birth to age six—helping them overcome challenges big and small, and build the foundation for a lifetime of success.
From the earliest days of Sesame Street, Ms. Cooney’s vision reflected the need to extend beyond the television screen directly into local communities—a commitment that has endured throughout our organization’s history. We are now on the ground in several communities across the nation with the goal to expand to 35 new communities, reaching 4.5 million children under the age of 6. This new fund will support content development, training for service providers, research, and implementation, allowing us to expand Sesame Street in Communities and remain responsive to children’s evolving needs.
The Joan Ganz Cooney Fund for Vulnerable Children will make a real difference in the lives of children who need us most, helping them grow smarter, stronger, and kinder—for many years to come.