Rancho Santa Fe couple support Center for Children’s important work on behavioral health

Carol and Jack Clark: “We decided we wanted to make a difference. San Diego Center for Children stood out for us.” Courtesy photo

The San Diego Center for Children will hold its 128th Anniversary Dinner Celebration on May 28 at the U.S. Grant Hotel. Founded in 1887, the center is the oldest children’s nonprofit in San Diego and provides support for children and teens struggling with behavioral and emotional health challenges.

The center offers therapeutic care, specialized education and critical life skills to more than 1,000 children and their families with programs in prevention and assessment, outpatient counseling, foster care, residential treatment and transitional services.

Rancho Santa Fe’s Jack and Carol Clark have been dedicated supporters of the center as members of the board and are deeply passionate about the center’s mission to protect the joy of children, prevent emotional suffering, incite change and inspire a world where all children and families live happy, healthy lives.

The Clarks funded the Jack & Carol Clark Adolescent Treatment Center, the renovation of the Sports Court, and most recently, the Jack and Carol Clark Pavilion.

“Our hearts are there and we donate and help when we can,” said Carol Clark. “It’s so important to heighten people’s awareness regarding mental health in lieu of our current universal mental health situation today. This is something that is extremely important.”

Moisés Barón, CEO for the San Diego Center for Children, said he is very grateful for the Clarks’ vision, generosity and ongoing commitment to the center’s mission.

“Their contributions to the Center have not only been very meaningful, but transformational. Because of their giving, their name is now closely associated with our residential and educational programs; throughout the county our Adolescent Residential Treatment Center is simply known as ‘Clark,’” Barón said. “It is truly inspirational for an organization to work with friends that create such significant impact.”

Giving back is something that has always been important to the Clarks.

Before relocating to San Diego in 1998, Jack and Carol served on the board of the Jack Clark Department of Pediatrics at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. Now called the Kravis Children’s Hospital at Mount Sinai, it is ranked among the nation’s top children’s medical institutions in seven specialties.

“Jack started the department in the early 1980s so they could raise money for research for clinical care and science discovery to improve the health of children,” Carol Clark said. “They are doing quite well.”

When the Clarks arrived in San Diego, they continued to focus their attention on the needs of children.

“We decided we wanted to make a difference,” Clark said. “San Diego Center for Children stood out for us.”

They attended events for donors and toured the campus.

“Their mission was very parallel in what we wanted to pursue dealing with children and mental health, something that we really hadn’t tackled before,” Clark said.

Through their involvement, the Clarks learned the troubling statistics that 1 in 5 children struggles with a behavioral or emotional disorder and of these, only 20 percent will have their disorder diagnosed and treated. More than 90 percent of children and teens who commit suicide have a behavioral health disorder, 50 percent of children who have a behavioral health disorder will drop out of high school and 70 percent of boys and girls in the juvenile detention system have at least one diagnosable disorder.

The center’s work is critical in that it seeks to provide solutions for these children who are suffering by building awareness and understanding in the community and giving them the help they need.

In addition to her work with the center, Carol has also served on the board at the Scripps Center for Integrated Medicine and has served on the Scripps Clinic Cardiology board. She and her husband funded the Jack & Carol Clark Gymnasium in the New Life Enhancement Center at Scripps Center for Integrated Medicine.

The adolescent center that bears the Clark name at San Diego Center for Children houses 30 teens ages 13-18 who have an acute need for therapeutic care, living away from home to regain health and happiness.

“We really had a passion for helping these kids. They are wonderful at-risk kids who have been abused terribly and have been in very, very traumatic situations,” Clark said.

The Clark Pavilion has given the children a place to gather on campus, an outdoor venue for events and a spot for them to eat lunch and hang out. Before, they had to eat lunch in their classrooms.

The Clarks are helping to fund a new kitchen for the campus, where children will be able to learn culinary skills and possibly pursue a career in the field.

“We’ve seen San Diego Center for Children develop and grow all these years, and we’ve really helped a lot of kids,” Clark said. “That’s really been an accomplishment for us.”

Clark said they support the work the center does to help San Diego’s most vulnerable children become successful adults, and she hopes others will be inspired to help too.

The May 28 Anniversary Celebration will include silent and live auctions, a three-course dinner, and a special performance by jazz phenomenon Matt Savage. Savage struggled with his own disability and diagnosis with autism as a boy. He taught himself how to read music and play the piano, and started composing music. Much like the children at the San Diego Center for Children, Savage discovered “a new beginning” and used music as his means for expression.

RSVP for the event by May 22. For information, visit