Honoring Dr. Mitchell L. Slotnick (Fall 2018)

The Slotnick Family accepting NSSRA’s Family of the Year award at the 2017 Shining Stars Awards & Recognition Banquet. L-R: NSSRA Superintendent Candice Cunningham, sons Barry and Jay, grandchildren Carly and Ben, Valerie and Mitch and NSSRA Executive Director Craig Culp. Not pictured, Mrs. Natalie Slotnick.

“Mitchell Slotnick had an unwavering belief in the benefits of recreation, and the connection between an active body and a fulfilling life. His compassion and commitment to others were reflected in his contributions to NSSRA and the partnership he helped forge with Northwestern. There are so many who have felt the impact of his generosity, and so many who are grateful for his leadership.” – Coach Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern Wildcats

Dr. Mitchell L. Slotnick, a member of the NSSRA community for nearly 40 years and a founding member of NSSRA Foundation, passed away on May 10, 2018. Together we mourn the loss of both a great man and a great friend to NSSRA.

Mitch and Valerie Slotnick were introduced to NSSRA when their youngest son, Jay, now 44, began participating in programs as a child. That participation quickly stretched into what has now become a lasting history and legacy of family involvement with NSSRA. With Mitch leading the way, for decades the Slotnick family has proudly and passionately supported and advocated on behalf of those with special needs, both with their time and incredible generosity.

Mitch’s impact on NSSRA and NSSRA Foundation cannot be understated. For nearly twenty years he and Valerie were valued members of NSSRA’s community, invested parents and personally generous, but their involvement didn’t stop there. Identifying NSSRA’s felt need of philanthropic financial support, Mitch worked tirelessly in 1996 and into 1997 along with two others to form NSSRA Foundation. Sue Hartemayer, a current Foundation Board member who served with Mitch since just after the Foundation’s inception, remarked, “Mitch was always the steady hand of our group and his dedication to NSSRA was unwavering. He believed the Foundation would grow bigger, greater and more successful every year. He was an inspiration to all of us.”

From its humble beginnings with just four board members and a few thousand dollars in donations, NSSRA Foundation has since raised over $1.6 million for NSSRA programs, scholarships and vehicles. It has also grown to an 11-member board, including Mitch’s eldest son, Barry, and represents a majority of NSSRA’s partner communities. “It takes time and patience to grow a foundation, and the fact that Mitch was in it from the get-go until the end is really a testament to his character and his passion,” said Liza McElroy, longtime friend of Mitch and NSSRA Board member. She continued, “I have a genuine appreciation for his absolute passion and commitment to NSSRA and to our mission of helping people with special needs.”

At the end of the day, family and relationships were always the most important thing to Mitch. “He always had a smile on his face and was always the first person to ask how you were doing, how your family was doing, ” said George Alexoff, a longtime member of NSSRA’s Board who worked closely with Mitch for nearly 20 years. “Mitch was never about Mitch. He was always about others, and he was never any other way.”

“He always said, ‘I’m with Jay,'” said NSSRA Executive Director Craig Culp. “His perspective was always right, putting his son and our participants’ well-being first.” Culp continued, “He was like a dad to me and to many of us, and we miss him tremendously.”

We have known Mitchell and Valerie since Jay and our son Sean became good friends about 28 years ago. Mitchell was a remarkable man whose legacy of love will long endure. His keen intellect, superior education, and hard work enabled him to be an extraordinary success both personally and professionally. And he used those talents, along with his keen insight and great generosity, to help others. The etymology of philanthropist is “one who loves people.” That was Mitchell. His wonderful family, his friends, his employees, NSSRA, Temple Jeremiah, Northwestern University – we are all the beneficiaries for having known him. – John, Mary and Sean Breen

I met Mitch and his family at Temple Jeremiah many years ago. He and Valerie became our good friends and Mitch, my husband and I each became president of the temple. Mitch and I each served as president of the Winnetka Interfaith Council and served on committees of the North Shore Senior Center, and he and Valerie have been more than generous to a multitude of causes. My most precious memory of Mitch is hearing him refer to himself as my “big brother” even though he was ten years younger. When Mitch entered a room he was a real “presence,” and easily became a friend to everyone. – Joan Golder