Remembering Melissa Mathison

The New York Times

The New York Times

We at 826LA are deeply saddened by the passing of Melissa Mathison. As one of 826LA’s founding board members, it is due to Melissa’s love and support that our organization has become what it is today: a space for students to grow in their writing abilities and to discover their voice.

Through her generosity as a donor and board member, Melissa provided 826LA with the boost it needed to grow from a small nonprofit in Venice to a thriving organization with multiple locations serving thousands of under-resourced youth throughout Los Angeles. Along with founding members Jodie Evans, Sally Willcox, Joshua Bearman, Jack Gilbertson, Pilar Perez, and Ninive Calegari, Melissa volunteered her time and resources to bring attention to 826LA, and helped recruit many volunteers and writers to our cause. Our first ever fundraiser was held at Melissa’s home and helped generate the money required to keep our doors open during challenging times. Our success today is due in large part to the foundational and ongoing support Melissa provided us through the years. Our thoughts and deepest condolences go out to Melissa’s family and loved ones. All of us at 826LA and the 826 National family of organizations lost a great friend today.

826LA encourages young writers to explore their creativity and improve their writing skills, and helps teachers get their classes excited about writing. A donation to 826LA in Melissa’s honor helps push forward her creative legacy, and we thank you for your donation.

Click below to make a donation to 826LA in Melissa’s name.





Melissa was core to the beginnings of 826LA; her love, humor and commitment were key in those early days. She was always up to sharing everything she had.  Her generosity was a clue in to the enormity of her heart. What I appreciate most was her playfulness, her lack of pretense and her profound dedication to her children. Nothing mattered more. She hadn’t lost the beauty or the wisdom of her inner child and those of us who watched the movies she wrote or knew her were nourished by that wisdom. Melissa, PRESENTE! — Jodie Evans

My heart is broken today. Melissa Mathison was among the tiniest group of true believers that created 826LA from the ground, from scratch, with deep love and commitment. There is nothing like building an 826 to bond a team, and I will be forever grateful to Melissa for her diehard support, her vision, her tremendous generosity. There were many, many times that Melissa shared her home with our teams for parties, for meetings, for me as a bed and breakfast. I loved literally every minute I shared with her and the city of LA and beyond are better of because of her gifts. — Nínive Calegari

Beautiful, talented, grounded, real and always so, so kind. Bright as in smart/bright, but also lit-up-from-inside-bright. Playful, charming, irreplaceable. We are so fortunate that Melissa’s many graces will always be at the heart of 826LA and all the chapters of 826…think how lucky every 826 student has been, and will be, to be have a bit of Melissa’s sparkle in their lives. Our deepest love to Malcolm and Georgia, who are through their mom a cherished part of our 826 family, too… — Sally Willcox

I was lucky enough to meet Melissa back in 2001, and got swept away by her brilliance and optimism, her infectious laugh and love of life. She was a phenomenal screenwriter, but she was an even better friend and source of inspiration. In 2003 I asked her if she would join the board of 826LA, then a very small organization operating on the second floor of the SPARC space in Venice. She not only joined the board, but became one of the most crucial supporters of the center, through some lean early years. It’s no overstatement to say that her financial support, her good sense and her unshakeable sense of possibility, kept 826LA alive. Now 826LA has grown far beyond our expectations and so much of that is owed to Melissa and her courage and faith in the organization way back when. She is gone far too soon. — Dave Eggers

There’s really no other way to put this: 826LA would not exist without Melissa Mathison. More than once, in scary and unstable times, it was Melissa’s generosity and leadership that enabled us to keep our doors open to students. Later, her ambition and her support were integral to the opening of our second writing center in Echo Park. When I worked at 826LA, talking to Melissa was one of the best parts of my job. She was warm, funny, candid, and kind. After I arrived in Los Angeles, Melissa told me I had to move to Venice, that I would be happy there. She was right. I was. And whenever I walked past her colorful house, I felt happy, and lucky, and proud too, to have Melissa as a neighbor, a board member, and a friend. — Mac Barnett

Melissa’s amazing accomplishments included an indispensable role in establishing 826LA and fostering its phenomenal development. Her initial contribution to 826LA in 2005 served as the foundational grant that got everything started for 826LA and enabled us to open our first facility in Venice. Her continuing generosity and leadership on the Board of Directors and in other capacities throughout the years was critical to shaping 826LA to what it has become today and will be for years to come. We at 826LA are forever indebted to Melissa for her generosity and leadership at 826LA and will do our best to carry on the legacy she helped to create.”  — Jack Gilbertson

Melissa was an incredibly generous and caring supporter of 826LA. As a board member, participant in our events, or as an ongoing donor and champion for our work, her backing opened many doors for us. We wouldn’t be where we are—and might not even exist today—without Melissa. I’m so grateful to have known and worked with her; I learned so much from her about what it means to give and to support the causes you believe in. — Joel Arquillos