power of a ripple

Here’s the story of a family and a scientist, united in their fight against mental illness, and how revolutionary treatment grows from an idea, to seed funding, to lives saved.

Family plane
Joseph Piven

Breakthrough research is one life-saving discovery away.

Our goal is to conquer mental illness by investing in groundbreaking scientific research and life-changing initiatives.

Every researcher hopes their ideas will lead to breakthrough discoveries. But without funding, those ideas often go nowhere. In truth, it doesn’t take much to get a research project off the ground—a relatively small initial investment can, with subsequent funding, swell into something extraordinary.

It’s called a seed grant. It’s how we fund the research and treatment of mental illness—and it’s also how we create ripples.

For this year’s annual fund, let’s discover what we can do together.

Our Model

Joseph Piven

Meet Dr. Joseph Piven.

Director, Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities

One Idea

People always thought autism started in the womb – but autism unfolds in the second or third year of life. So what happens during that pre-symptomatic period? What pushes a child from not having autism to having it? And could a child be treated for autism before their symptoms even appear?

One Investment

With seed funding from the Foundation of Hope, Dr. Piven conducted research on the joint attention in infants – when a child responds to someone looking or pointing somewhere. Since autistic babies have deficits in this area, Dr. Piven studied what was happening in the brain when this occurred. He was then able to use that data to receive funding for a larger study, now called the Infant Brain Imaging Study.

Seed Grant Leveraged Funds
$39,999 $10,000,000

One Breakthrough

The IBIS study is now following more than 400 babies through the stages of early development. Soon, researchers will apply their findings to a second cohort and see if they can predict autism from brain scans at infancy.

“The Foundation of Hope is the missing piece in the pipeline of research. Funding like this doesn’t exist anywhere else.”

—Dr. Piven

Meet Gabe and Jack.

Two brothers diagnosed with autism.

From infancy, Jack and Gabe had both missed developmental milestones.

Lauren knew her sons needed special care – they had trouble rolling over, talking, and socializing. Over and over her doctors told her to “wait and see.” But her sons weren’t catching up, and she was tired of having her concerns dismissed when her instincts told her something wasn’t right. That’s when she found Dr. Piven and the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, and before long, the family had an answer: both boys were diagnosed with autism. Finally, the family had a plan for moving forward.

The most difficult part of the entire process was the repeated denial we got that anything was wrong from our hometown medical community. Once we finally got the actual autism diagnosis, we were able to take steps forward and get Gabe and Jack the help they need.

They now have hope that one day, because of studies like this, early intervention for other children with autism will be possible – so no more mothers have to worry like Lauren did.


Our goal: $60,000

100% of your donation will support mental illness research at the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Psychiatry.

All it takes is one. Is that one you?

Stories like Gabe’s, Jack’s, and Dr. Piven’s are just the beginning of what’s possible. Your contribution may create the ripple that swells into the next breakthrough—and helps save thousands of lives.