History of the Cristina Foundation in the US

The National Cristina Foundation (NCF) supplies computer technology and training to people with disabilities, students at risk, and economically disadvantaged persons. It provides them the opportunities to lead more independent and productive lives.

NCF started as a small operation – with one Apple IIe computer! In 1983, Cristina McMahan, a young girl with cerebral palsy, was part of a special education class in the Yonkers Public Schools in Westchester County, NY. Her peers included children with a range of disabilities: spina bifida, loss of limbs, and learning disabilities. Many of the children needed adults to act as scribes for them when they wanted to write or draw.

It occurred to Cristina’s teacher, Dr. Yvette Marrin, that a computer in the classroom could be a big help to enabling these children to accomplish tasks that other children took for granted.

Marrin held a fundraising picnic, which netted her $100 of the $2500 she needed.  David Bruce McMahan, Cristina’s father, however, was intrigued by her idea and donated the rest of the money required to put a computer (the Apple IIe) in her classroom.

The computer made an immediate and profound difference. David Bruce McMahan noticed that his daughter became more independent and outgoing; other parents noticed similar changes in their children.

David Bruce McMahan and Yvette Marrin co-founded the National Cristina Foundation in 1985. The first formal NCF projects were their collaboration with the Maryland State Dept. of Education in 1986. McMahan jump-started the process by donating 2500 personal computers to the State of Maryland.  After this initial effort NCF developed a Re-use Systems Model, which is basic to the NCF donation program. Click here for more on    The NCF Strategy.

In 1996 NCF celebrated its tenth anniversary with an award ceremony to recognize two super achievers with disabilities:   Harold Russell (Oscar Winner for his portrayal of a disabled vet in   The Best Years of Our Lives) and Vint Cerf one of the creators of the Internet, for their contributions to improving the lives of people with disabilities. Today, NCF has outgrown the ‘national’ in its name: not only is NCF involved in programs in all 50 states, it is now an international operation.
History of the Cristina Foundation’s International Agenda