Missing our friend, Joe
Joe Ritchie is the most influential person to VKB that you've likely never heard of. Joe was a co-founder of America's Kids Belong, our parent organization, and much of the "heart" of AKB and its state chapters comes from Joe. Joe Ritchie's life story could be a movie: his parents were missionaries in the Middle East when he was young. He was a bus driver and security guard until someone handed him a book on options trading. He devoured the book and employed an innovative technology tweak that resulted in great financial success for Joe and his family.
Instead of using his wealth for personal pleasure, Joe invested it in making a difference for people and was especially focused on economic opportunity for developing countries and improving the outcomes of vulnerable families and children.
After having worked on orphan care issues around the world, Joe became aware of the U.S. foster care crisis in 2014 from Hugh and Deb Jackman who are adoptive parents. He and his team immediately started searching for best practices across the country and found 2 things: high-quality videos of waiting kids used largely in faith communities by Brian and Julie Mavis and Virginia Adopts, the government campaign run here in Virginia in 2013.
We merged those two efforts and teams and thanks to generous financial and intellectual investments from Joe, America's Kids Belong was born. Virginia's Kids Belong was founded 3 years later and AKB has a presence in over a dozen states, meaning thousands of kids found belonging because of Joe's vision, counsel and generosity.
Spending time with Joe was like spending time in the past, present and future simultaneously. His life history is the one of the most fascinating I've known, he was always fully present when I was with him, and his vision into the future and the potential it held was unparalleled. He was humble and kind and distinctive in many ways.
He passed away this week in NYC at the age of 75 and will be missed more than we can articulate. Our hearts grieve for his wife Sharon, his 10 children, his grandchildren and the thousands of people whose lives Joe changed. It brings some comfort to think that he may - for the first time - now see his vast impact on the world.
Founder, Virginia's Kids Belong