Donor Spotlight: 2,656 miles, round-trip

How far would you drive to visit the National Museum of American History? When I first met Museum donor David Garrett, I was amazed to hear that for dozens of years, he and his mother made an annual pilgrimage to the Smithsonian, driving 2,656 miles round-trip from Dallas, Texas. As someone who lives in the local area and works in this very building every day, the thought of this monumental road trip blew me away.

David’s mother, Aileen M. Garrett, was a long-time reader and fan of Smithsonian magazine. One day, she saw an advertisement about charitable gift annuities, (a mechanism for making a gift to a charity while receiving an income for yourself or others) and decided to make such a gift to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in honor of her husband, who had been a pilot. In recognition of her generosity, she became a member of the Smithsonian Legacy Society and was invited to annual members’ weekends. She and David made this weekend the impetus for a family trip, routing their long car journeys along different paths each year so that they could visit family and friends along the way.

On a visit to the Smithsonian in 2000, David saw the Piano 300 exhibition, which was organized by the National Museum of American History to celebrate the birth of the piano and its three hundred years of influence. A curator gave a tour of the exhibition and, true to the museum’s philosophy of keeping the music of these historic instruments alive through performance, played some of the pianos for the visitors. “I was blown away by these instruments and decided right then and there to make a planned gift of my own,” David recalled. “I designated it specifically for support of the music collections so that my gift will one day support this amazing collection.”

From the Smithsonian's collection, a 1854 grand piano made by Erard in London.

Sadly, Aileen passed away in 2011, but her legacy lives on at the Smithsonian. The many years David spent with his mother at the Smithsonian remain a happy memory for him, and he follows in her footsteps as a legacy donor to the National Museum of American History.

To find out more about how you can make a charitable gift annuity or other planned gift, contact Amy Karazsia, director of Individual Giving, at or 202-633-1841.

Amy Karazsia is the director of Individual Giving at the National Museum of American History.