The Live Like Ally Foundation’s mission is to help young people gain life-affirming experiences while working to make this world a better place.

LLAF is offering cash grants/scholarships to a select few 15-23 year olds who have much to offer personally, but may not have the financial resources to begin their journey.

Think Higher.
Feel Deeper.

“…We all know the extraordinary person she was. In her short 20 years, she experienced more of life than most of us do in two lifetimes. In her brief span, she did more good for more people than most people three times her age.”

– Rabbi Ed Rosenthal

A Short Life, Well Lived. 

Allison Willen, or Ally to all who knew her, had an extraordinary passion for life. Ally sought a deeper understanding of the world by connecting with people, animals, and nature in an authentic way.

She also had extraordinary compassion, rare in someone so young. Ally regularly volunteered her time and energy to organizations and causes aligned with her values, travelled internationally on service projects aligned to her world view, became a vegetarian, had a long-standing prison pen-pal, and found great joy and philosophic reflection in nature. With her boundless optimism and positivity, Ally made lasting friendships everywhere she went. 

Her love of travel and nature led her to New Zealand for a semester abroad at the University of Otago in Dunedin. In April 2015 while hiking through the Mount Aspiring National Park with friends, Ally was caught on the trail as a bad storm turned the magnificent landscape into a horrible nightmare. Her life was lost to nature on that mountainside trail, far from home but exactly where she wanted to be. Ally was just 20 years old.

Ally’s kind heart, open ears, raw conviction, unbridled enthusiasm, and non-judgmental outlook endeared her to others, and inspired them. As word spread of her passing, a movement took hold. To honor her, people began dedicating themselves to ‘Live Like Ally,’ and the seeds of the Live like Ally Foundation were sown.

“I’ve always liked trees because the rings build off of each other, each one strengthens the tree. That’s how I feel about life experiences too; they develop you into a stronger person even if it’s hard to understand. And the inside rings are going to [look like] a finger print, because each time you meet a person, you leave a mark on them and we have a responsibility to only leave good marks, leave good impressions, and consciously put positive energy into the world.”

– Ally Willen, describing a tattoo design
in a text message to her sister, Emily.

Live Like Ally. 

Welcome to the Live Like Ally Foundation website. Michelle and I established the foundation after our daughter, Ally Willen, was lost to nature hiking in the mountains of New Zealand. Ally was almost 21 years old when she died. The world lost a person with an incredible passion for life, a strong sense of self, true wisdom and a deep love for this world. It was a devastating loss from which we know we’ll never recover fully, yet we are determined to make some good within our tragedy. The Live Like Ally Foundation was created to help young people have life-affirming, life-changing experiences as our daughter did. We’re offering grants/scholarships of up to $10,000 to 15-23 year olds who want to do great things but may not have the resources to get started. Grant requests most likely to be considered would be from those individuals looking to experience world travel, serve underserved groups locally, nationally or abroad, and in their own ways align with global perspectives on human rights and respect for the environment. But we’re open, tell us what you want to do and how we can help.

To apply for a Live Like Ally Foundation grant, navigate to  the ‘start here’ page. Tell us, in essay form,  what you’d like to achieve, what you have done so far to reach for your dreams, and how LLAF could help you ‘Think Higher, Feel Deeper.’ By all means submit pictures, links, video, recommendations, endorsements, etc.; anything that would give us a great picture of who you are.

Please note, the grants/scholarships will be made to established organizations that are aligned with your goals; no grants will be made directly to the requestor. Live Like Ally Foundation will be reviewing essays and choose finalists on a quarterly basis. Finalists for an LLAF grant will be contacted off line and asked to submit additional information, including some documentation of financial need. Grants will be made based solely at our discretion. Individuals not receiving LLAF funding may reapply after one funding cycle.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Todd and Michelle Willen


“I closed my eyes, took some deep breaths and told myself that life was beautiful and I was happy. I wanted to imprint that scene and feeling in my mind forever.”

– Ally Willen, at Queenstown Hill, New Zealand