She started them young.
Sharon Bush realized early on that her three children, as members of the Bush dynasty, would live in the spotlight. They could look forward to a life of advantage and opportunity, but Sharon also saw risk.
“They were going to be surrounded in private schools by a lot of privileged children,” she says of Lauren, now 34; Pierce, 32; and Ashley, 29. “There would be talk about who has the latest Prada handbags. Kids getting brand-new BMWs for their 16th birthday. That’s not what I had in mind for my children and I didn’t want it to rub off on them. So I turned the spotlight around and had them helping others.”
The now ex-wife of Neil Bush, the third son of George Herbert Walker Bush and younger brother to George W. and Jeb, schlepped her kids to homeless shelters and soup kitchens, and to pitch in at her myriad charitable activities.
“Lauren won’t remember this, but I had her help me blow up helium balloons and tying them to wheelchairs in nursing homes when she was 3 years old,” Sharon recalls.
Indeed, Lauren does not remember those occasions, but does value her mother’s overall influence. “I feel fortunate to have been born into a situation where my mom exposed me to the realities that other people struggle with,” she says.
Those childhood experiences have carried over into adulthood. Lauren, married to Ralph Lauren’s son David Lauren, founded FEED in 2007, fresh out of Princeton University. Her company produces a line of reusable bags that has thus far generated the revenue to provide more than 100 million school meals for hungry children.
Pierce, after doing a brief stint in private equity, joined the staff of Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star in 2012 and is now the organization’s statewide CEO. Ashley, who, last year, earned her master’s from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, is a budding filmmaker specializing in socially conscious documentaries.
All of this makes Sharon one proud mom, but the affable, energetic blonde who lives in Manhattan and winters in Palm Beach has not slowed her own philanthropic pursuits. She sits on the board of UN Women for Peace, on a committee for the Hearst Castle Preservation Foundation and helps her friend Princess Yasmin Aga Khan with an Alzheimer’s gala. In addition, Sharon is the senior development director for Cristo Rey Brooklyn, part of a network of schools geared toward economically disadvantaged students. She’s organizing a fundraiser for the school to be held in March at the Palm Beach home of Greg and Kimberly Dryer. “My way of fundraising is to get everything donated, so all the proceeds go to the cause,” Sharon declares. “In the end, that’s all that matters.”
“My way of fundraising is to get everything donated, so all the proceeds go to the cause. In the end, that’s all that matters.”