Who We Are

Our History

Established by Craig H. Neilsen in 2002 as a private foundation, the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation is dedicated to supporting both programs and scientific research to improve the quality of life for those affected by and living with spinal cord injury. Mr. Neilsen was a prominent real estate developer who founded the casino gaming company, Ameristar Casinos, Inc. He was an entrepreneur with incredible vision who took his company public and led it from its initial market capitalization of $27 million to $1.4 billion at the time of his death in 2006. 

The Foundation’s endowment was fully funded in 2011, allowing for significant growth in grantmaking capacity. Since 2011, the Foundation’s funding has continued to expand its reach, deepening our grantmaking capacity across the field. In 2016, the Foundation funded approximately $27 million in grants to organizations and institutions. The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation has evolved into the largest private funder of spinal cord injury research, rehabilitation, clinical training and programmatic support in the United States and Canada. Our vision is that individuals with spinal cord injuries, and those who care for them, live full and productive lives as active participants in their communities. 

The Foundation continues its programmatic and administrative refinement and this stabilization allows us to increase both our capacity and impact.  We have expanded our portfolios, rebranded the organization, enhanced our website, and grown the staff – but the deep rooted standards that were important to our Founder have not wavered. His vision and values have paved the way for the Foundation to thrive. 

Beth Hersh Goldsmith – Founding Executive Director

about-board-bethIn 2003, Beth Hersh Goldsmith became the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation’s first Executive Director. She worked with Craig to establish the Foundation’s initial peer-review boards for its scientific research and quality of life program grants. Following his passing in 2006, Beth continued to work with the Co-Trustees and Board of Directors to carry on Craig’s vision for the Foundation. After a courageous, hard-fought battle with cancer, Beth passed away in 2015. Beth remains a positive inspiration to the Foundation and we continue to honor her service to the organization and her indomitable spirit as an individual in perpetuity.