Brett S. Ellen

Mentoring Excellence Award

Brett S. Ellen
Charity | Turn Kindness on Helping Hands
Company | American Financial Network
Broker/Dealer | Securities America

Brett Ellen, president of American Financial Network, thinks big. Eight years ago, in an effort to teach his youngest sons about giving back to the community, he didn’t merely involve them in charitable activities; he helped them form their own nonprofit organization, Turn Kindness On Helping Hands of Calabasas, Calif.

Why start your own philanthropy? “Because we’re so driven by this, we wanted to control the spending – there are no administrative costs. Also, our kids are so passionate – this is all funded by me and my firm, like a family foundation.” Finally, “this allows us the flexibility to go in any direction we want, to help any cause we want,” Mr. Ellen said.

“The idea of it – it’s not about doing more, it’s not about teaching our kids to just have empathy – but to know what’s out there to make them want to make things better,” he said.

A major focus of TKO Helping Hands is to engage local youth in volunteer service projects. Recent activities include beach cleanups, bake sales to raise funds to end childhood hunger, visiting disabled children, feeding the homeless, and raising funds for children in Kenya.

This year, Mr. Ellen launched a financial blog for children and parents, found at He writes on topics such as compound interest, the difference between stocks and bonds, and tips for teaching financial responsibility to children.