Kennedy Krieger Institute Unveils New Endowed Research Fund Focused on Down Syndrome Care Across the Lifespan

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BALTIMORE, October 24, 2023Kennedy Krieger Institute and the Wawa Foundation announced a new research fund, The Hannah Rose Culotta Endowed Research Fund, which will focus on developing enhanced treatment approaches for individuals with Down syndrome throughout their lifetime. The fund is named in honor of the daughter of longtime donor, Jay Culotta, a retired Wawa executive, who has raised more than $900,000 for Down syndrome research in the past two decades.

The Wawa Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Wawa, Inc., which has stores throughout the mid-Atlantic including 63 stores in Maryland, contributed $156,000 to start this new, named endowment fund, in recognition of both Mr. Culotta’s years of service with Wawa and his continued support of advances in care for individuals with Down Syndrome. In addition, the Foundation made a surprise announcement at today’s event that Wawa will match all new donations, up to $50,000. The goal is to add a total of an additional $100,000 to the fund through this challenge. Anyone can contribute and have their donation matched.

The new fund will be used to accelerate training and advance improvements in the medical and mental health care of patients with Down syndrome, including adults, said George T. Capone, MD, director of Kennedy Krieger’s Down Syndrome Clinic and Research Center.

“Families have made the biggest difference in care and research for Down syndrome, and Jay’s contributions, in particular, will have a long-lasting impact because his generosity enables the training of the next generation of healthcare providers,” Dr. Capone said.

“I began this philanthropic journey not long after Hannah, now 28, was born. I met Dr. Capone at a Down syndrome just over 28 years ago and was so impressed by the research and work that he and his team were doing. My wife, Cindy, and I wanted to focus on empowering our daughter to grow up to the best person she could be. Part of that included our commitment to raise awareness and money for Down syndrome research,” Mr. Culotta said.

He signed up initially to run a marathon and hoped to raise $1,000. Instead, he raised more than $4,000. Not long after, Mr. Culotta enlisted the support of Wawa, Inc. and ultimately The Wawa Foundation (collectively Wawa), which focuses on health, including research and care for people in need, hunger relief efforts, and heroes, including support for military, first responders and educators. With the Foundation’s gift to start the Hannah Rose Culotta Fund, Mr. Culotta and Wawa’s combined fundraising over the years now equals more than $920,000. With the new $50,000 match, the hope is to top $1 million in the coming months.

“Jay is a bright light who brings inspiration to so many through his commitment and his hard work,” Brad Schlaggar, MD, PhD, president and CEO of Kennedy Krieger, said. “We are so grateful for his continued generosity which has had a widespread impact well beyond the doors of this Institute.”

For more information on the Hannah Rose Culotta Endowed Research Fund, click here.  


About The Wawa Foundation
The Wawa Foundation is an extension of Wawa’s commitment to making the world a better place by fulfilling customers’ lives every day. The Wawa Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation founded by Wawa, Inc. to support the company’s charitable giving and philanthropic activities – and ultimately to help build happier, stronger communities. The Wawa Foundation focuses its support on organizations committed to health, hunger and everyday heroes through local, regional and national grants. Since 2014, Wawa and The Wawa Foundation have donated more than $150 million to causes supporting health, hunger and the heroes who serve our communities every day.

About Kennedy Krieger Institute 
Kennedy Krieger Institute, an internationally known, non-profit organization located in the greater Baltimore/Washington, D.C. region, transforms the lives of more than 27,000 individuals a year through inpatient and outpatient medical, behavioral health and wellness therapies, home and community services, school-based programs, training and education for professionals and advocacy. Kennedy Krieger provides a wide range of services for children, adolescents and adults with diseases, disorders or injuries that impact the nervous system, ranging from mild to severe. The Institute is home to a team of investigators who contribute to the understanding of how disorders develop, while at the same time pioneer new interventions and methods of early diagnosis, prevention and treatment. Visit for more information about Kennedy Krieger.

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