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N.D. native forms foundation

David Haakenson had a dream one night. It was about gold. He dreamed he found it and then contributed his new-found riches to a charitable organization.

Phil Jackson and David Haakenson

David Haakenson had a dream one night. It was about gold. He dreamed he found it and then contributed his new-found riches to a charitable organization.

He never found the gold. But he found a good charity. Rather, he founded a good charity.

And he got one of North Dakota's best known native sons to serve as its honorary chairman.

David and Phil

Dave is from Williston, N.D., but now lives in Vail, Colo., and owns a window covering company in nearby Avon.


His organization, Swift Eagle Charitable Foundation, was formed in 2003. Its purpose: helping people in need.

The name comes from Eagle County, where Vail is, and it was started almost accidentally.

Dave and a group of 15 to 20 friends had a tradition of getting together to celebrate birthdays.

During a get-together, Dave told his friends about his idea of having a charitable foundation to help people. Someone said, "We buy each other all these stupid presents all the time; why don't we just put the money in a foundation?"

Why not? And they knew just the guy they'd ask to be its honorary chairman: Los Angeles Lakers basketball coach Phil Jackson.

Phil and Dave have been friends since they played together on the 1963 Williston High School state basketball championship team and on other Williston High teams.

When Phil became a National Basketball Association star, he spent some of his summers giving basketball clinics to the kids on a Sioux Indian reservation in South Dakota. In appreciation, the tribe gave Phil the Indian name of Swift Eagle.

Dave talked to Phil, and Phil said he'd be happy to be the honorary chairman of the Swift Eagle Foundation.


A fundraising event was held in Vail, with Phil as speaker. Some 350 people attended and pitched in more than $40,000.

So the foundation was set up as a nonprofit organization with no paid positions; it seeks to give

95 percent of its funds to people in need.

Since it was formed, the foundation has given away nearly $100,000, with all the funds coming from donations, grants and fundraising benefits.

The foundation helped a family with temporary living expenses after their house burned down; a 19-year-old who became a paraplegic while doing missionary work; a woman and her children after the woman's husband suffered a brain injury in a bicycle accident; a young girl who needed emergency dental work; and many more.

Small town?

Dave's wife, Pat, is from Fisher, Minn. His mother, Bernice Haakenson, going on 96, lives in Fargo but lived in Williston much of her life, and it bugs her that a Vail newspaper, writing about Dave, called Williston "a small town on the Montana border."

But she's rightfully proud of Dave and his foundation that is helping so many people.


More information about the foundation can be found on its Web site: www.swifteagle.org , or by writing to it at Box 1977, Avon, CO 81620.

It's an organization that is taking some of the grief out of people's nightmares and making Dave's dream come true.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to 241-5487; or e-mail blind@forumcomm.com

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