Wing 2 Wing Foundation: Reflecting on 2022 and Looking Ahead to 2023

Child using zip lining course with white text that says "Wing 2 Wing Foundation" over the child

In 2019, Brad D. Smith and his wife, Alys Smith, co-founded the Wing 2 Wing Foundation to uplift West Virginia by supporting accessible education, advancing entrepreneurial interest and conserving Appalachia’s natural resources. The past year has been particularly successful as the foundation has seen growth across its own assets as well as contributed to growth in the state at large.

By encouraging a business-friendly environment, the Wing 2 Wing Foundation is contributing to West Virginia’s recent economic success. The state is currently experiencing its largest economic growth in a decade. Some of this growth can be attributed to Wing 2 Wing and the programs it provides for local talent to flourish and for businesses, both small and large, to thrive.

Looking Back on 2022

The Wing 2 Wing Foundation supported numerous initiatives in 2022 to help drive the Mountain State forward. Keep reading to learn more about specific activities that the nonprofit undertook this past year.

Wing 2 Wing Ventures Invests in Local Talent

Wing 2 Wing Ventures focuses on advancing entrepreneurship in West Virginia and assisting small businesses by creating conditions for vibrant growth, personal coaching and capital investment in regional, early-stage start-ups. The foundation has supported multiple businesses over the years, including DignifiHealth and  Appalachian Botanical Co. This year, the Wing 2 Wing Foundation made a donation to Heritage Farm in celebration of its 25th anniversary, allowing the farm to construct a family-friendly bike park.

To learn more about the Wing 2 Wing Foundation’s investments, visit the organization’s portfolio.

Ascend West Virginia Brings New Talent to the Mountain State

One of Wing 2 Wing’s most prominent initiatives is Ascend West Virginia, a remote worker program attracting new talent to the Mountain State. Ascend WV also works in tandem with the Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative (OEDC), which was  established through West Virginia University and aims to get Ascenders active in the mountains of West Virginia, exploring and appreciating the natural beauty of their new home.

The Ascend program has made notable progress in revitalizing West Virginia since its establishment in 2021. With 25 participants per cohort, and three cycles of the program complete, Ascend has brought over 75 participants (and their families) to West Virginia to date and is projected to bring in 1,000 remote workers over the next five years. The program’s unique benefits, paired with the abundance of opportunities for professional and personal growth in West Virginia, has garnered worldwide attention, resulting in tens of thousands of applicants from all 50 states and multiple countries. As the program continues to grow and evolve, the Ascend team recently added Elkins, West Virginia, as an additional destination for applicants to relocate to.

Advancing Education for Everyone

Educating the next generation is essential to the success of West Virginia. However, many Appalachian communities are disproportionately and negatively impacted by economic and technological changes. In 2022, the Wing 2 Wing Foundation supported various institutions to help make education more accessible to students of all ages and backgrounds. These institutions included Marshall University, West Virginia University, Coalfield Development and DonorsChoose.

This past fall, Wing 2 Wing also sponsored the High Q game show with famed host Ernie G. Anderson. The program featured middle and high school students, testing their knowledge as they competed on the show.

The foundation also donated to the Fairfield U. Mentor Program, which provides educational opportunities and enables mentor relationships for middle and high school students.

Looking Ahead

In less than five years, Wing 2 Wing has made numerous strides in uplifting West Virginia. As the Foundation looks to the future, Alys Smith will begin taking greater hold of the reins and establishing herself as the organization’s leader. Alys has been instrumental in the development and success of Wing 2 Wing — a success she will undoubtedly carry through to the future as she becomes further involved in 2023.

One project Alys currently has in the works is orchestrating a Women Warriors Summit, set to take place in Huntington, WV this October. The event is intended to help attendees feel more empowered both at work and at home by focusing on how to courageously engage and participate in difficult conversations.

Looking forward, Alys and the Wing 2 Wing Foundation are excited to continue transforming West Virginia and building stronger communities across Appalachia.