When Heidi Wong was in first grade, her parents enrolled her in an international school in Beijing, China, so she could learn English. Growing up, Heidi spoke only Mandarin. Her parents, both investors, spoke several languages, but not English. At first, Heidi struggled to keep up with her classmates who were native English speakers. Her parents helped by taking her to the library, where she would stare at the books for hours trying to connect English words with pictures.
In time, she became fluent in English, and children’s books gave way to Edgar Allen Poe stories, Agatha Christie novels, and paintings by René Magritte and Jenny Saville. These supplied Heidi with endless hours of entertainment—but they also made her feel different.
When she was 13, a friend of her dad’s told her about CTY. Intrigued, she looked it up online and read about Summer Programs. Heidi enrolled herself in Talent Search, took the SATs, and signed up for the Whodunit? course in Easton, Pa. Between the classes, activities, and friendships, Heidi found time at CTY to start writing poetry. Her first poem concerns the wistfulness she was feeling before camp was even over. “When camp is over, there is a post-CTY depression,” she said. “I feel like I found a home at CTY.”
Heidi compiled a book of more than 100 of her poems confronting themes of love, death, sickness, and loneliness. Her first book, “Sixteen,” was published in May. In June, Heidi donated the proceeds from her book, $15,000, to CTY. “This is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. As an artist and writer, whenever somebody asks me ‘Who inspired that?’ 99 percent of the time, it’s not a “who,” it’s a “where,” and that place is a summer program called CTY.”
“We were amazed with Heidi’s incredible generosity and desire to help other bright students who are less able to afford a summer at CTY. Never before had a current student made a gift like this and we were deeply grateful,” said Margaret Walsh, senior director of development for CTY.
Heidi’s commitment to CTY didn’t stop here. She also supported CTY’s Pi Day 24-hour online giving campaign on March 14 by making a gift of $3,141 and by donating one of her paintings inspired by the Easton site. It was the top prize in a raffle to alumni donors who gave on this day.
Heidi will graduate from high school this spring. She plans to come back and work as an RA with Summer Programs, attend college, live in New York City, and eventually become a painter or writer. In the meantime, she hopes her gift will afford more students the Summer Programs experience. “I hope CTY can change the lives of more kids for the better,” she said.