DeLayna Wilhelmsen of United Way of Salt Lake spends her days doing what she loves—helping families navigate the demands of raising kids, juggling work and making ends meet….in other words—simply living.
DeLayna, Community School Director at West Kearns Elementary School, wants families to know that they are not alone, that she is there with the full support of the United Way behind her.
United Way partners with many local nonprofit organizations across the U.S. to provide a broad range of physical, educational, and financial support to meet the specific needs of children and families.
Comcast has proudly partnered with United Way for our annual Employee Giving campaign since 2001. Since then, Comcast NBCUniversal has donated nearly $100 million to benefit the United Way. We are in the last week of this year’s campaign, but just last year the generosity of our employees supported more than 5,000 nonprofit organizations in 1,500+ local communities.
DeLayna knows firsthand how these contributions change lives. “Each obstacle that a child faces is like a brick in their backpack,” she says. “Put a brick in if they’re homeless; put a brick in if they’re hungry; put a brick in if they live in poverty; put a brick in if the family doesn’t speak English. Those kids are carrying a very heavy backpack. Children do not deserve that burden.”
Some families struggle for generations in poverty. Other times, hardship strikes suddenly, in the form of a medical event, a death, or a job loss. DeLayna knows all too well things can change in an instant.
September 6, 2001, DeLayna made the journey from her home in South Jordan, UT to the Big Apple, having earned entry into the prestigious New York University (NYU). Her dorm was in Greenwich Village. Five days later, on September 11, she was eight blocks from the World Trade Center.
“When 911 happened I’d only been in the city for a few days, and I didn’t have time to develop any real friendships, so it was very isolating.”
“I quit,” she adds. “I just had too much anxiety, stress, and fear—I moved back to Utah.”
DeLayna finally graduated in May 2016 from Utah State University, and her family was at her graduation. Her kids saw firsthand what their mom sacrificed, and gained, with her education.
DeLayna is the first to acknowledge that her own life experience played a key role in a career at the United Way.
“United Way isn’t just about helping kids who are struggling with poverty—it’s about helping all families. I’ve been on the brink before, close to losing my house, trying to make ends meet as a single mom: I have a lot of empathy for people in those situations. I have a strong commitment to families that are struggling with circumstances beyond their control.”
The United Way model provides capacity, resources, and ongoing support in Utah communities, bringing together individual volunteers, businesses and community organizations to remove those bricks from children’s backpacks, one by one.
“Every child—every person—is born with the desire to be successful. Every child wants to learn; every parent wants to contribute to their child’s wellbeing. I believe, as United Way does, that we have a responsibility to support those children and families who just need some help to access their God-given skills and abilities.”