The story of the Brainerd Foundation begins in Southern Oregon, where we were born and raised.

Our family owned and operated Brainerd’s Studio and Camera Shop in Medford, a town of 15,000 people. Running a small business in a close-knit community meant knowing our neighbors and helping others in times of need. Although our family was not wealthy, the importance of giving was deeply instilled in both of us from a young age.

We had a cabin in the national forest at Diamond Lake where we spent many days each summer. As kids, we were free to roam the woods, exploring the streams and trails and encountering the wild creatures that lived there. The experiences we had growing up in that special place gave each of us a lifelong interest in the environment.

A few decades later, each of us started companies in the tech world—Sherry in the research and medical fields and Paul in publishing. With a background in journalism, Paul founded the Aldus Corporation, which revolutionized the publishing industry with its signature product, PageMaker. The success of the company gave Paul the freedom to turn his time and attention back to his love of nature, kindled in our early childhood in the forests of southern Oregon. When Paul founded the Brainerd Foundation with proceeds from the sale of Aldus, he turned to Sherry to help steer the work.

We opened the foundation’s doors in 1995, with the purpose of protecting the air, land, and water of a region that includes Alaska, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington (plus the Yukon Territory for a few years).

From the beginning, we were determined to make the biggest possible impact with our time, energy, relationships, and resources. Among other things, this meant not following the traditional formula of giving away only five percent of our assets each year. In 2008, we decided to become a limited life foundation, and at the end of 2020, after twenty-five years of work, we closed our doors. By not holding back, we were able to support truly inspiring people in every part of the region who worked so hard to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the places we all love.

We are grateful to all of the people who were a part of our story, and we are so very proud of all that was accomplished.