Respect 90 Volunteer Spotlight | December 2021

December 15, 2021

By Respect 90 Foundation | Volunteer Spotlight

Says Joe Maddon: “The volunteers are the unsung heroes. Without them, none of our efforts occur.” Every month, the Respect 90 Foundation will salute a distinguished volunteer from the communities of Tampa, FL, Chicago, IL, Mesa, AZ, Southern California, or Joe’s Hometown of Hazleton, PA. Respect 90 will present a $1,000 grant to that volunteer’s charity. Should you have someone who is deserving, please let us know.


Suzanne Ellingson | Child Creativity Lab (Santa Ana, CA)


Suzanne Ellingson likens her role with Orange County’s Child Creativity Lab, to riding the rails of The Little Engine That Could. “I’m so excited to be part of it,” says the big-hearted philanthropist/volunteer who learned of CCL through a friend who told her, “It’s a very grass roots organization. If you get involved, you’re going to be wearing a lot of hats but they have a social enterprise component that speaks to your business side and your philanthropic side.”

It didn’t take long for the former plumbing executive to embrace CCL, whose mission is to foster the next generation of critical thinkers, problem solvers, innovators, and leaders through hands-on creativity enhancing exploration.

“I went and saw the space and met our great CEO Tracey Hill who has such an infectious attitude and I was all in. I went from committee to board and eventually to board chair starting last year.”

Says Tracey, “Suzanne has been our champion in the community, tirelessly fundraising and recruiting volunteers for CCL. Her passion and commitment to the children of Orange County are a true inspiration.”

The two principals talk through all leadership matters on a daily basis and are especially proud to have developed a working board of directors that is comprised of many different types of people from the surrounding community and to have kept them engaged.

Mostly, Suzanne goes where she is needed. That includes assembling the STEAM kits (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) for the students. Every kit comes with hands-on technology projects to work on collaboratively or individually, ideal for students and educators in K-8 that are new to STEAM projects or want new project ideas.  “Just to be working with the kids, and watching them come out and want to do our kits and how excited and proud they are is something I can’t imagine not doing,” admits Suzanne.

Her contributions were never more evident than when COVID-19 struck, just one month after Tracey had taken the reigns at CCL. “Suzanne’s support and leadership has guided us through the dark days of the pandemic—allowing us to continue to serve students when they needed us the most,” says Tracey.

“To see what we did during that time was amazing,” beams Suzanne . “We could not go into the schools because of the shutdown. Children whose parents were able to work were left at community centers for maybe eight hours a day.  We supplied kits for the community centers, otherwise these kids would be on their own all day. It was really exciting to see how many kids we could serve under that situation.”

An Orange County native and economics major from San Diego State, Suzanne’s passion for helping others came from her parents. “We had a family business,” she recalls. “When we sold it, I dove straight into philanthropy work because that was something I mirrored from my parents.  They weren’t wealthy people going in but they always gave back and especially after selling the business they were very generous and showed all of us kids that was what needed to happen.”

Suzanne has set the same example.” She has literally enlisted her whole family to volunteer,” says Tracey.

The experience has been eye-opening. “My own children have been raised hands on,” says Suzanne of her two adult daughters. “They went to great schools. To think that there are children who are in Title I schools where science, technology and art are all cut and they don’t have that exposure. They don’t have it at home. That’s the biggest benefit that we are giving.  “

“The growth has been fun to watch as a business person but then the numbers of children we have helped serve has been equally impressive. I have brought friends in to the organization and help assemble STEAM kits and the funny thing is they have stayed around and volunteer every week. That’s the kind of thing I love to see. I love making those kind of connections.”

“Like I’ve said, it’s like The Little Engine That Could and it works,” concludes Suzanne. “I was raised to be philanthropic and volunteer and that’s what I am doing. I am having a lot of fun and success with it. Anybody I connect with is going to hear the story of CCL and somehow play a part. That’s my mission.”


Rick Vaughn | Executive Director, Respect 90 Foundation


To find out more about the child Creativity Lab in Santa Ana, CA, go to