Foundation Launched to Honor Donna Guo, A.B. ’15

Donations to The Remembering Donna Guo Foundation will go towards sponsoring children and orphanages in rural China.

By Eileen Li

Members of the UChicago community have started the Remembering Donna Guo Foundation in memory of Donna Guo, A.B. ’15, with donations going toward sponsoring children and orphanages in rural China.

Guo passed away in a car accident on April 18 while vacationing in New Zealand with her parents. Both of her parents suffered critical injuries. She is survived by an older sister who was not involved in the accident.

Guo majored in biological and biomedical sciences and worked in assistant professor of surgery Atique Ahmed’s cancer research lab. After graduation, she continued to work with Ahmed, now at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, while also applying to medical school with plans to enter in fall of 2016.

While on campus, Guo was heavily involved in China Care, a RSO dedicated to helping Chinese adoptees and orphans, serving on the board as a mentorship coordinator and later as president. She pioneered a new program that brought UChicago volunteers to a foster home on the outskirts of Beijing to teach English and assist in developmental programs.

As the fundraiser description states, “One of Donna’s great life passions was lovingly serving and caring for children adopted from China. As president of UChicago’s China Care, she helped to create its first Mentorship and Playgroup Programs, raised money to sponsor medical treatment for children in China, and established a summer internship to send volunteers to China.”

Jonathan Pan, A.B. ’15, a close friend of Guo’s from her house, DelGiorno, said he started the fundraiser to commemorate Guo’s legacy of helping others. “I hope this fundraiser will be a way of not only remembering her but also helping her live on in this world; continuing to carry out the work she started which was nurturing and mentoring future generations of children,” Pan wrote in an e-mail.

When asked what he would remember most about Guo, Pan described her long hugs and upbeat personality. “Sometimes, I would even [get] frustrated, in a joking kind of way, because whenever she saw a group of her friends she would give them each a 20-second hug and would be so bubbly in asking “how are you?” and I’d be just kind of standing around waiting, because it would take so long, as she gave so much attention to each person she saw. But at the same time, her kindness and her ability to uplift people when she saw them was something I wished I could emulate,” Pan wrote.

Third-year Nils Noor, Guo’s boyfriend, said Guo’s trademark was her endless positivity. “Even though it was finals week when I first met her, she was just happy. You could never make this woman sad. Or even if something bad was going on in her life, she would always give off the impression that she was always happy and somehow it would make you feel better. In a place like UChicago where it’s not really the best in terms of emotional encouragement, it’s nice to have someone, you know, a friend, to lift up people,” Noor said.

Third-year Davis Tsui, current co-president of China Care, remembers Donna welcoming him into the club in the fall of his first year and the key role she played in shaping the organization’s culture. “She’s one of the reasons why a lot of us consider China Care a big family…. People in China Care feel very safe and very close to each other and I think Donna definitely was a major force building up to that,” Tsui said.

Shelly Thai, A.B. ’14, served as co-president of China Care with Guo and believes Guo would have been especially proud of the RSO’s growing membership. “Since the time she started…China Care has grown so much, from 10 people to a family of more than 40. With a growing Chinese population on campus, it has also become a vehicle of Chinese pride and culture. I think that Donna would be proud of what she, along with her friends and family, has created and fostered—a community of inclusion, teamwork, positivity, and pride in one’s own culture and identity,” Thai wrote in a statement.

Over the past few years, China Care UChicago has donated about $1,500–$2,000 per year to the OneSky Foundation, its umbrella nonprofit organization. The Remembering Donna Guo Foundation hopes to raise $10,000 over the next few months and has currently received over $6,000 in contributions, all of which will go directly to OneSky.

Jenna Bekeny, A.B. ’15, Guo’s first-year roommate and fellow China Care member, said they were overwhelmed and surprised by the response to the fundraiser, which received over $2,000 in donations in just a few hours. Bekeny stated that the foundation would like to donate to OneSky annually in Donna’s memory. Pan also mentioned the possibility of a more long-term collaboration with the UChicago China Care group.

Noor hopes the foundation would expand in the future to fulfill Guo’s dreams of helping those without health care access. “She wanted to give help to people who deserved it the most, provide health care to rural areas whether it was in China, Africa, or Central and South America. She wanted to make sure that people weren’t dying because of lack of health care. Once she finished her med school she actually wanted to do Doctors without Borders,” Noor said.

“For anybody who donates, whether you knew Donna or not, I know this is a truly great cause that a truly great person really cared about. I hope that everybody just has a way to honor her in their own unique way,” Bekeny said.