Partners in Philanthropy: A Conversation with Peter Thum and Cara Buono
Following Children’s Home + Aid’s Champions for Children Luncheon in Chicago this spring, we were given an exclusive opportunity for an in-depth conversation with For the Love of Children award recipients, Peter Thum and Cara Buono. Peter is an entrepreneur and activist, and Cara is an Emmy nominated actress, screenwriter and director best known for her roles as Dr. Faye Miller in the fourth season of the AMC drama series Mad Men, Kelli Moltisanti in the sixth season of The Sopranos and Karen Wheeler in the 2016 horror sci-fi Netflix original series Stranger Things.
Read on to hear about how this amazing couple shares their passion for activism and gives hope to children and families here in Chicago and around the world through their work with Liberty United and Fonderie 47.
Children’s Home + Aid: How did you get involved in violence prevention work globally and in Chicago?
Cara: We met in 2007 and started dating in 2008. A few months after our first date we traveled to Africa together to visit safe water and sanitation programs that Peter’s brand, Ethos Water had funded. [Ethos Water, which Peter had founded in 2002 was acquired by Starbucks in 2005]. During the trip we met young boys armed with assault rifles and this was Peter’s inspiration to start working on an innovative venture called Fonderie 47 that would combat the proliferation assault rifles in Africa by transforming AK47s into art and beautiful products that would fund the destruction of more guns when sold. Fonderie 47 has produced high end watches, jewelry, writing instruments and art pieces. The sales have funded the destruction of more than 70,000 illicit assault rifles in African conflict regions.
Later in 2013 we co-founded Liberty United, which partners with US communities and law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement provides us with destroyed illegal guns from released evidence or gun buyback programs and then we transform this material into jewelry and accessories. We then donate 20 to 25% of the profits of these products to programs to educate, uplift and protect at-risk kids in our partner communities. We have partnerships with Philadelphia, New Orleans, Syracuse and Newburgh New York, and in Chicago with the Cook County Sheriff’s Department. The programs that we have funded through partner non-profit organizations like Children’s Home + Aid in Englewood have helped more than 3,000 children.
Children’s Home + Aid: Cara, how do you use the influence of being on a hit TV show to support your work?
Cara: My father raised my siblings and me to include service in our lives. I’ve been actively volunteering since I was a teenager and am still active in a few other organizations. It’s my hope that being on a popular TV series does allow my voice to be heard and offers me/us a pathway to reach and inspire people to get involved. Our passion for violence prevention work has a long history, so it’s nice to be getting attention for my professional work that opens up channels to get our message out. Children’s Home + Aid: What has been one significant achievement that each of you are most proud of?
Cara: I always think there’s so much more that can be done but when I’ve had the opportunity to meet people and especially children who have directly benefited from what we have done, it really inspires me to keep doing more. I’d like to believe that many of these children will go on to do things to help others and change the world themselves.
Peter: The organizations and brands that I’ve founded have now helped hundreds of thousands of people around the world. But the strongest sense of accomplishment comes when I get to meet face to face with people whose lives have been made better by our customers who have supported our mission and who are helping people in need who they will probably never get to meet. For example: When I got to meet the kids who are enrolled in the Children’s Home + Aid Community Schools program in Englewood, it was awesome. These children are just like our own daughter and our hope for them is like our hope for her — that they can flourish and have a great life.
Children’s Home + Aid: On a more personal note, Peter, how did you and Cara meet?
Peter: We were seated next to each other on a red-eye flight from Los Angeles on September 20, 2007. Seats 6C and 6D.
Children’s Home + Aid: Where do you live now, and how do you manage all of the ventures you are involved in, and raise a child?
Peter: We live in Manhattan. I’m not sure how we manage to do everything that we do. Our daughter is our first priority. We organize our work and our lives with her front of mind.
More About Children’s Home + Aid Partnership with Liberty United
Peter Thum and Cara Buono are the founders of Liberty United and of Fonderie 47; ventures that transform illegal guns into jewelry, watches, accessories and art to fund programs to stop gun violence. Liberty United programs protect, educate and uplift the lives of thousands of at-risk children who are growing up with gun violence in America.
Children’s Home + Aid is proud to be a partner of Liberty United and a recipient of funding to help communities devastated by the epidemic of violence. Through Peter and Cara’s efforts, we have been able to provide after school programming for boys and girls in Chicago Public Schools. Through these programs, hundreds of children and families have received support services and quality after-school programming to help keep them safe, engaged and in school.