What We Do

At the Justin Wynn Fund we recognize the leadership and contributions of the youth and adults in our community through our Awards; and through our Leadership Academy we work with our youth to fulfill our mission of leadership through community service.


The Justin Wynn Fund presents four major awards every year.  These awards honor exemplary youth and adults from across Evanston.



The Justin Wynn Award is presented annually to two fourth graders from each of District 65’s 12 elementary schools. Recipients are selected by their teachers and other school staff for exhibiting strong leadership, citizenship, and sportsmanship - characteristics that were central to Justin Wynn during his life. Awards are presented at an annual brunch in May which is attended by approximately 300 people from across Evanston including Evanston’s mayor, school officials, and other community members.

Each of the award recipients, or “Wynners”, are invited to participate in the Justin Wynn Leadership Academy until their graduation from high school. Starting with the first class of award recipients in 1988, nearly 600 students have received the Justin Wynn Award and all have played a role in celebrating Justin’s legacy.

See the list of Justin Wynn Award recipients here.

The Michael Wynn Award honors Justin’s father and is given to the high school senior Wynners who have contributed greatly to the Justin Wynn Leadership Academy.  They display qualities of dedication, inspiration, and compassion, traits that characterized Michael Wynn. The honorees are presented with the award at the annual Awards Brunch in the spring. In addition, the Justin Wynn Fund makes a donation to a charity of the recipients' choosing.  See the list of Michael Wynn Award recipients here.

The Marcia Wynn Award honors Justin’s mother and is presented to a Wynner parent in recognition of his or her extraordinary service to the Justin Wynn Fund community.  This person believes strongly in the mission of the Justin Wynn Fund and possesses dedication, spirit, and compassion, traits that characterized Marcia Wynn.  The recipient is selected by the Justin Wynn Fund Board of Directors and is presented with the award at the annual Parent/Board dinner in September.  See the list of Marcia Wynn Award recipients here.

Mikeand Marcia

The Buddy Portugal Award honors an adult in the community who has made an outstanding contribution to Evanston’s youth. The recipient is selected by the Justin Wynn Fund Board of Directors from a list of nominees put forth by the Justin Wynn Fund community.  The award is presented at the annual gala, The Red Tie Soirée. Prior to 2011, this honor was named the Adult Leadership Award. The award was renamed after Buddy Portugal who was instrumental in the formation of the Justin Wynn Leadership Academy.

See the list of Buddy Portugal Award recipients here.


Area youth serving the community

Video created by Jenna and Chuck Kent, 2017

The Justin Wynn Leadership Academy (JWLA) is a collaborative leadership and community improvement program that partners with many organizations around Evanston and the surrounding communities. Year after year, the JWLA brings together Evanston’s young people who have the potential to be tomorrow’s leaders. Through a carefully crafted process of leadership development and participation in community service, their potential is transformed and mobilized to inspire the world.

Membership is comprised of 5th - 12th graders who have received the Justin Wynn Award.  These youth, or "Wynners", attend monthly meetings in which they plan community service opportunities, engage in leadership training and team building exercises, and engage with community leaders.  The JWLA also provides several community service opportunities every month in which the Wynners can participate, including work with local food pantries, soup kitchens, assisted living facilities, and animal shelters.  Members of the JWLA are also invited to attend a weekend long leadership camp in August.

The JWLA Leadership Camp

Our annual August leadership camp is a critical component of the Justin Wynn Leadership Academy.  Wynners from grades 5 through 12 travel together to the YMCA Camp Duncan in Ingleside, IL where they spend three days embodying the mission of the JWF: Leadership, Service and Sportsmanship.  

The Wynners work hard and play hard during their time away at camp. They collaborate on developing the strategic plan for the upcoming program year, participate in team-building activities, and nominate other community organizations to impact throughout the year.  Having a wide age range of Wynners attend camp is intentional and allows the high school Wynners to mentor and lead many of the activities and the often spirited debates.

Camp is one of the highlights of the year for the Justin Wynn Leadership Academy, kick-starting our year and creating a forum for our Wynners to build life-long bonds and friendships.  We believe that every Wynner should be able to attend the leadership camp and work diligently to ensure there are no barriers to getting them there!

JWLA camp

The JWLA is a wonderfully enriching experience that allows youth of different ages from across Evanston to build friendships, problem solving skills, and confidence.


The Catherine McKnight Scholarship

The Justin Wynn Fund is pleased to announce the Catherine McKnight Scholarship, open to all graduating ETHS seniors.  Mrs. McKnight, or as she was lovingly known, Granny, was the matriarch of the Wynn family and was beloved by all who knew her, including the countless students she taught over her long career at District 65. She was also an unwavering supporter of the Justin Wynn Fund.  

Created in 2019, the Justin Wynn Fund will award two $1,000 scholarships annually to graduating ETHS seniors who demonstrate a passion for education and community service.


During the 2018-19 program year, the JWLA partnered with the following community organizations:

  • A Just Harvest Community Kitchen, Chicago
  • Alliance for the Great Lakes, Evanston
  • Beth Emet Synagogue, Evanston
  • Campus Kitchens, Northwestern University
  • Connections for the Homeless, Evanston
  • The Cradle, Evanston
  • Evanston Animal Shelter, Evanston
  • Evanston School Children’s Clothing Association, Evanston
  • Family Focus
  • Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, Evanston
  • Gates Manor, Wilmette
  • Girls Play Sports, Evanston
  • Habitat for Humanity, Northern Fox Valley
  • Hemenway Methodist Church Soup Kitchen, Evanston
  • The Mather, Evanston
  • McGaw YMCA, Evanston
  • Meals at Home, Evanston
  • The Night Ministry, Chicago
  • Park School, Evanston
  • Parks & Recreation Adopt-a-Park, Evanston
  • Pennies for Peace, Bozeman, MT
  • School District 65, Evanston
  • School District 202, Evanston
  • The Talking Farm, Skokie
  • Unitarian Church of Evanston
  • Vineyard Food Pantry and Clothes Closet, Evanston

A portion of the proceeds raised at the 2nd annual JWF SoccerFest on September 2, 2018 was donated to Books and Breakfast.

A portion of the proceeds raised at the 15th annual JWLA 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament on March 10, 2019 was donated to Connections for the Homeless.


2020 Marcia Wynn Award recipients honored

Kendra Morrill and Tom O’Hare received the 2020 Marcia Wynn Award at our Parent/Board Gathering on September 29. The Marcia Wynn Award honors parents who have been dedicated volunteers and supporters of the Justin Wynn Leadership Academy.  The Justin Wynn Fund created this award in memory of Justin’s mother, Marcia. Thank you Kendra and Tom!

2020 JWLA Leadership Camp

The pandemic couldn’t stop us from having a great 2020 JWLA Leadership Camp on August 8 and August 9.  We held camp at the Evanston Lighthouse Beach Shelter.  We had two different groups of Wynners each day; close to 70 Wynners in all.  The Wynners safely participated in team building activities and had discussions about being a leader and the needs of our community.  They also had fun doing yoga, playing games and doing tie dye.  It was great way to start off the 2020-21 program year!


The 2020 Catherine McKnight Scholarship recipients

ETHS graduates Mya Allen and Nicole Mosquera were selected to receive the 2020 Catherine McKnight scholarship.  Mya and Nicole were honored at the virtual ETHS Senior Scholarship Night held on May 13, 2020

Mya will pursue her education at Reed College and will major in Computer Science.  Nicole plans to study Neuroscience in college.

Congratulations and Best Wishes to Mya and Nicole!

2019 Marcia Wynn Award recipients

The 2019 Marcia Wynn Award was presented to Kathy McDermott and Ronda Reneau at the Parent/Board dinner on September 25th.

The Justin Wynn Fund created the Marcia Wynn Award in 2016 to honor parents who have been dedicated volunteers and supporters of the Justin Wynn Leadership Academy.

Congratulations and thank you!

Pictured from left to right: Kaila Holland, Ronda Reneau, Kathy McDermott, Drew McDermott

A fun 2019 SoccerFest

Thank you to all the participants, volunteers, sponsors, and partners for helping to make the 2019 SoccerFest a huge success!

Results and photos are found on the SoccerFest Event page.

Wynners at the JWLA Leadership Camp!

Over the August 9-11 weekend, 56 Wynners came to the YMCA Camp Duncan for the annual JWLA Leadership Camp. It was a weekend packed with meetings, team building, plenty of fun, and very little sleep! What a great way to start the new program year!