Lauren McCluskey Foundation hires new executive director

Future projects include partnership to create guide for at-risk students, implementing Lauren’s Promise

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COURTESY OF RON MITTELHAMMER

Linda Mittelhammer, executive director of the Lauren McCluskey Foundation, said she thinks the McCluskeys approached her for the job because they know how much she cares about the foundation’s cause.

CHERYL AARNIO, Evergreen reporter

A close family friend and longtime volunteer has been hired as the first executive director for the Lauren McCluskey Foundation. 

Volunteers have been keeping the foundation running, but with large numbers of donations and interested volunteers, they needed an executive director to help manage the work, said Matt McCluskey, co-founder and treasurer of the Lauren McCluskey Foundation.

Linda Mittelhammer started her job as executive director around July 1, Matt said.

“Linda is a perfect choice. She has a lot of volunteer experience,” Matt said. “In particular, she helped to organize a very successful dinner auction last year in October, and so she already is familiar with the foundation and how to raise money.”

The foundation was named in honor of Lauren McCluskey, a University of Utah student-athlete who grew up in Pullman and was shot by a man she had been in a relationship with, according to a Daily Evergreen article. It is a nonprofit organization that supports amateur athletes, especially students who cannot afford to go to athletic competitions. It also supports animal welfare and campus safety, Matt said.

Mittelhammer’s job will center around organizing events year-round, including the second annual Race for Campus Safety, which will take place virtually in September and an auction dinner around the same time of year to raise money, Matt said. She will also improve organizing travel funding to help underprivileged youth attend track meets.

Mittelhammer said she has a close relationship with the McCluskeys and to the Lauren McCluskey Foundation.

“Lauren was almost like a granddaughter to me and to my husband,” Mittelhammer said. “We’ve known the McCluskeys ever since Lauren was a baby, and we loved her dearly.”

When the McCluskeys learned that Lauren was missing, Jill McCluskey, Matt’s wife and co-founder of the foundation, called Mittelhammer right away, Mittelhammer said. Before she and her husband had time to arrive at the McCluskey’s house, Jill called back to say that Lauren had been killed.

Since then, Mittelhammer said, she and her husband have been supporting the McCluskeys, and have volunteered for the foundation. Mittelhammer helped raise money for the Lauren McCluskey Cat Wing in the Whitman County Humane Society.

She said she thinks the McCluskeys approached her for the job because they knew there are not many people who care as much as she does for the foundation’s cause. 

She wants to keep Lauren’s legacy going. Mittelhammer wrote in an email that it was amazing to hear stories from people about Lauren helping their children or Lauren going over to someone to make sure they did not feel excluded.

“It is important to continue making things better for people, animals and also to assure that no one else is denied the support that Lauren should have received,” Mittelhammer wrote in an email. “She believed in the system and it failed her and we need to correct that.”

Mittelhammer said she is partnering with an attorney to put together resources and steps for people to follow if they think they are at risk. The foundation is also working to continue implementing Lauren’s Promise, a statement that tells students that they will be heard if they need support or help. This pledge is included in students’ syllabi at WSU.

The McCluskeys are leasing office space at the WSU Research and Technology Park, and this is where Mittelhammer will work, Matt said. However, the foundation is not a part of WSU. In the future, interns will also work there, Matt said in an email.