Our Mission & Origin Story
Jan Helson, a dedicated philanthropist and businesswoman, has spent her life building meaningful connections and positively impacting her community. For two decades, she and her husband, Tim, developed a niche food manufacturing company, Golden Foods & Golden Brands, into a global leader within the fats & oils field while simultaneously owning and operating a real estate investment and development company. Through her experience, she noticed that many of their young production workers, who came from at-risk and impoverished backgrounds, struggled in the workforce, lacking the confidence to effectively communicate within the workplace to become resilient and successful employees.
After selling the business in 2011, at the age of 51, Jan decided that her “Second Act” would be committed to giving back and helping to make the world a better place for all children, especially future generations of the most underserved and marginalized students. Her research found that essential social-emotional competencies such as leadership, collaboration, and empathy were not being taught in a meaningful way.
Jan’s first step into this space was joining her daughter in co-authoring two award winning children’s books, Philanthropy: A Big Word for Big Hearted People and The Global Game Changers. Both books featured an exciting real-life superhero theme that was the impetus for creating The Global Game Changers, a nonprofit with philanthropy at its core. The mission was simple: anyone can make a difference no matter who you are and where you come from.
Drawing on the support of family, the organization expanded beyond the books themselves. Niece Anne Walker’s academic background and experience as a career writer brought unique skill sets to the development of the GGC program that bridged Jan and Rachel’s contributions. Her ability to translate GGC’s creative and practical framework into an impactful academic curriculum and engagingly bring GGC students experiences to life paved the path for growth.
A three-school pilot program featuring teachers from a public, private, and parochial school proved the model, with teachers reporting substantial behavioral improvement in their students.
Since then, GGC has developed into a robust, evidence-based in-school and afterschool program in hundreds of elementary schools across the nation, and has catapulted partnerships with the YMCA, United Way, Feeding America, AmeriCorps/Corporation for National and Community Service, Muhammad Ali Center, and the University of Louisville College of Education.
With the launch of an Online Educator Portal in 2019, thanks to a $1 million grant from the Novak Family Foundation, the program has now been implemented nationwide, providing all educators equitable access to the curriculum and support tools at no cost. The Novak Family Foundation believes in the value of developing future leaders and has made a generous investment in Global Game Changers to help fulfill their mission. Focused on scale and sustainability, Global Game Changers is developing a children’s television show and a consumer product brand that aligns with the core curriculum.