An American Legion committee is authorized to study the feasibility of a special fund for children’s programs after former American Legion Department of Arkansas Commander Dr. Garland Murphy, Jr., offers to the national organization fractional rights to 10,000 acres of oil-rich land he owns in the Williston Basin of Montana and North Dakota. In return, Murphy asks that proceeds from the contribution be used solely to serve children. Out of this contribution is born the American Legion’s Child Welfare Foundation. On July 9, 1954, the foundation is incorporated as a distinct non-profit organization whose mission is to benefit young people with physical, mental or environmental challenges.

The first three CWF grants, totaling $22,500, are awarded to the Delinquency Control Institute, the National Association for Retarded Children and the National Society for the Prevention of Blindness.
Through its first 60 years, the CWF goes on to award nearly $15 million to associations, programs and organizations that help young people in need, and continues to do so today.