Peter Samuelson has been described as a “serial pro-social entrepreneur”. In 1983, inspired by a little boy battling an inoperable brain tumor, Peter conceived of the Starlight Children’s Foundation—an international charity dedicated to granting wishes for seriously ill children. Starlight has grown to offer eight core psycho-social programs, each restoring some of the laughter, happiness and self-esteem that serious illness takes away from kids and those who love them.
As parents and healthcare providers confirmed the positive psychological and often medical impact of Starlight programming, in 1990 Peter brought together leaders including Steven Spielberg and General Norman Schwarzkopf to create Starbright World, an online social network to educate, encourage and empower children to cope with the medical, emotional and social challenges of their illness. In 2005, Starlight and Starbright World completed a formal merger and became the Starlight Children’s Foundation, with offices throughout Australia, Canada, The United Kingdom, Japan, Israel, and across the United States. Starlight now has a combined operating budget of $50 million and serves over 6 million children annually. Since inception, Starlight has raised and deployed internationally over $1 billion and served 60 million seriously ill children.
In 1999, Peter co-founded with Sherry Quirk, First Star, a separate national 501(c)(3) charity headquartered in Washington, D.C. that works to improve the public health, safety, and family life of America’s abused and neglected children.
With Peter as President, First Star provides “top-down” systemic leadership to provide quality and compassionate care for children within the child welfare system, basic civil and legal rights for every child and safe, stable and permanent homes for all children. First Star's program to create 4 year residential programs for high school age Foster Youth on university campuses nationwide began at UCLA in 2011, and has thus far replicated to the University of Rhode Island, University of Connecticut, Rowan University New Jersey, University of Central Florida, Loyola University Chicago, City University of New York, and at George Washington University in the District of Columbia. Negotiations are underway to expand to additional campuses in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Florida.
In 2008, Peter founded EDAR, “Everyone Deserves A Roof” to develop and widely distribute through established service agencies a mobile single-user homeless shelter on wheels. EDARs cost $500 each and so far 300 homeless clients use them nightly.
Peter is a graduate of Cambridge University with a Masters in English Literature and the fourth of five family generations employed in the film industry. After serving as production manager on films such as The Return of the Pink Panther, he emigrated from England to Los Angeles and produced Revenge of the Nerds, Tom & Viv, Wilde, Arlington Road and 20 other films. Peter served on the founding Board of Participant Media Inc., Jeff Skoll’s pro-social media company. Peter Samuelson is President of ASPIRE, the Academy for Social Purpose in Responsible Education, whose undergraduate courses have been successfully piloted at UCLA