When Linda Yip lost her beloved only son, Nathan, in a tragic car accident twenty years ago, she could easily have become mired in grief. Instead, she and her husband Jimmy channeled their pain into a thriving educational philanthropy. She now says that, while she lost her son, she also gained thousands of other children who depend on the important work she and her husband do to honor their son.
Born one of seven children to a prosperous family in Taiwan, Linda decided as a young woman to leave the security of her childhood home in pursuit of new adventures in the west. Friends she met while traveling had started a restaurant in Colorado and they needed help with staffing. As a single woman, Linda knew getting a visa would be next to impossible, but she tried anyway, and luck was on her side. On Valentine’s Day, 1979, she arrived in Colorado, jet-lagged but excited for whatever was next to come.
It did not take long for Linda to find her footing in her new home. The Asian community in Denver was small at the time and word had gotten out about a new, pretty server working at the restaurant. Within a week of her arrival, a young man stopped by to check her out. That man was Jimmy Yip, a young guy from Hong Kong with big plans of his own, and Linda was taken with him right from the start. The feelings were mutual, and soon it became clear to both of them they their futures would be together.
Linda, who had a degree in political science from the Cultural College of Taiwan, joined forces with Jimmy to create a series of successful restaurants in the Denver area. From there, they went on to develop substantial real estate holdings. Linda and Jimmy were thriving professionally, but the real joy they found was in their son, Nathan, who was born in 1983.
As Nathan grew, so did the compassion he felt for others. The family often traveled to China, where Nathan was stunned to witness the poverty and deprivation of life in the rural mountain villages. On those visits he befriended the local children, playing ball with them and laughing, but the laughter was always tinged with sorrow. Their lives, and their prospects, were so dramatically different than his own, and it didn’t sit right with him. As the family made their way back to their comfortable lives in Colorado, Nathan was always full of concern for the children they were leaving behind.
Nathan never forgot those children, and he frequently spoke of his desire to improve their lives through educational opportunities and scholarships. In college, he became a member of Future Givers, an organization committed to philanthropic pursuits, serving as its Vice President. He had so much he wanted to do and was just at the start of his journey when, at the age of only 19, he was killed in a car accident over winter break.
Linda and Jimmy were devastated, yet as the painful weeks dragged on, Linda began to feel a determination to turn her tragic loss into something meaningful. Finding the positive, even in the midst of unbearable tragedy, had always been a mantra for her. Now it was time to put that mantra to the test.
With the help of their loving, supportive community, Linda and Jimmy set about building a philanthropy in their son’s name to carry on the work he would have done had his life not been cut short. In 2002, they founded the Nathan Yip Foundation with the goal of enriching the lives of impoverished children worldwide through ongoing educational support. Over the next six years, the foundation raised over $1 million in educational grant money, building schools in China, supporting orphanages in Mexico and Rwanda, and most recently, working to improve access to high quality education and scholarship opportunities in Colorado.
The Nathan Yip Foundation has become not only a way to turn tragedy into a powerful mission, but it has also become the driving force behind Linda and Jimmy’s lives. Linda is so proud to have been able to touch the lives of thousands of children, children whose opportunities are greatly expanded and enriched through the work of the foundation.
The logo Linda chose for the foundation is a butterfly. The life of a butterfly is short, she says, but they come back again and again, bringing with them color and beauty that bring joy to all who see them. That is how she has come to see Nathan’s life. It was short but beautiful, and it will continue to enhance the lives of all who come into contact with it through the important work she and Jimmy now do in Nathan’s name.
To learn more about the work done through the foundation or to make a contribution, please visit www.nathanyipfoundation.org.