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The Ford Petersen Foundation raises funds and supports people and animals in need through various types of organized charitable events. Ford loved animals, and he wanted to do anything he could to help all kinds of animals. He also loved his golf. But most importantly, he loved his friends. So, every charitable event we organize is a time for everyone to come together to honor Ford’s memory, enjoy each other’s company and raise funds for great causes he passionately believed in!


Learn About Ford.

fordonbeachFLO - Ford Lives On… Forever In Our Hearts
October 25, 1991 – February 11, 2013

Ford was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada to Brian and Betty Petersen. Ford has an older brother Jordan and a younger brother Dack and of course let’s not forget about his beloved chocolate lab, Duke.

Ford attended elementary, middle and high school at Capistrano Valley Christian School in San Juan Capistrano, California and attended church at Saddleback in Lake Forest. He played on the Varsity Basketball team and played on the Golf team and was Captain for 3 years.

A big thrill of Ford’s young life was getting accepted into the animal sciences program at the University of California at Davis in the fall of 2009 where he studied for the last 4 years. In June 2013, Ford was awarded with his B. Sci. degree posthumously. He had planned to further continue his education in Veterinary Medicine in September 2013 but that was not to be.

You see, Ford suffered a congenital heart ailment that took his life while studying for his midterm exams at UC Davis on February 11, 2013.

To say that Ford was passionate about animals is clearly an understatement!  As a junior in High School, Ford began volunteering on weekends at the Mission Viejo Animal Services Center. Beginning in his first year of university, Ford worked each summer at the Alicia Pet Care Center & The Pet Rescue Center being mentored by Dr. Matthew Wheaton.  He also volunteered at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach and at the Huntington Beach Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center. In the summer of 2012 he also worked with Dr. Doug Coward at the Animal and Bird Clinic of Mission Viejo.

The Ford Petersen Foundation is our way of continuing in his legacy of supporting the community and causes that so lovingly welcomed Ford. Giving at-risk animals a chance at having healthy lives and habitats. Giving others that struggle with heart problems the chance at accomplishing great feats in spite of their ailments would honor Ford in ways we could not imagine.

Featured Article From UC Davis News: The Davis Enterprise

June 18, 2013
UCD honors a life full of promise
By Anne Ternus-Bellamy

FordBSgradThey were always supposed to be there.

It just wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Brian and Betty Petersen sat in the upper level of the UC Davis ARC Pavilion on Sunday, their son, Dack, beside them, along with his girlfriend and Betty’s sister.

Down below, the graduating class of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences was filing into The Pavilion as all the proud family members looked down, searching out their daughters and sons and sisters and brothers, shouting and waving when they found them, clapping, taking pictures.

Ford Petersen was supposed to be among them, receiving his bachelor’s degree in animal science, his life having been a direct trajectory to this moment.

And Brian and Betty Petersen, Dack, and the others were supposed to be there cheering him on.

Instead, they were there, and he was not, and what was supposed to be one of the proudest moments in a parent’s life was still that, but also something very bittersweet.


The Petersens’ oldest son was an animal lover from his earliest years.

His aunt, Tina Bakin, recalled Ford’s grief over the death of a pet rat when he was very young, calling it the first sign of where Ford might be headed.

He began volunteering at an animal rescue clinic in junior high, where the biggest challenge, Bakin said, “was keeping him from bringing home all the dogs.”

He still managed to turn the family’s Mission Viejo home into a virtual menagerie, Betty Petersen said, “without the farm animals.”

He worked hard in high school, graduating in the top 2 percent of his class even while playing several sports and captaining his high school golf team all four years. And there was only ever one college he wanted to attend.

UC Davis, his mom said, “was the only school he wanted to go to.”

Here he found the perfect place.

“To say Davis was the right fit for Ford is an understatement,” she said.

The laid-back atmosphere of the school and city suited him perfectly, she explained, as did the animal science department. But as laid-back as Ford was, he remained as focused as ever on academics, and as passionate as ever about the animals.

He spent his summers working at the Alicia Pet Care Clinic in Mission Viejo, where he found the perfect mentor.

Veterinarian Matthew Wheaton is a UCD grad in his mid-30s, not so far removed from his school years that he couldn’t advise Ford on classes and professors and life in Davis.

“He was a phenomenal mentor,” Betty Petersen said.

Ford also worked at the marine mammal rescue center in Laguna Beach, and remained focused on his ultimate goal of becoming a veterinarian. He applied to more than a dozen veterinary schools last fall, his father said. It was, in a word, his dream.


But the life trajectory that was supposed to take Ford on to that next step of his journey wasn’t to be. Instead, a congenital heart ailment ended his life while he was studying for a midterm exam in February.

His death stunned the close-knit animal science department, where Ford was a beloved figure.

“He was loved by everybody,” said department chair Anita Oberbauer. “He was larger than life. He had this aura about him … that brought people to him.”

To call Ford larger than life wouldn’t be an exaggeration.

Standing 6 feet, 6 inches tall and weighing in at 300 pounds, Ford, his aunt said, would intimidate you if you didn’t know him. But the truth was, he was a gentle giant.

“The softest big guy you’d ever know,” his younger brother said.

UCD animal science professor Russ Hovey could always spot him in every class — you couldn’t miss him, he said. But Ford’s size belied his gentleness with the tiniest of creatures in his care.

In Hovey’s lactation class, Ford worked with mice.

“I still remember him, this giant of a guy, coming up to me with this tiny mouse in his hand, and he was just such a gentle giant,” Hovey recalled. “He was always so eager to learn, so enthusiastic.”

After Ford’s sudden death, his UCD classmates organized a memorial service in the horse barn in February, Oberbauer said. All the animal science students and faculty came, as did Ford’s family.

“He had so many friends,” Brian Petersen said. “They loved him.”

And with good reason.

Brian Petersen recalled a conversation with a friend of Ford’s. She had called him one evening, telling him a bunch of students were going to hit the town and have some fun — did he want to come?

“He said, no, he had to study,” Brian Petersen recalled. “But he told her to call him when they were ready to come home and he’d pick them up.

“He was just like that.”


In the wake of Ford’s death, many of those who loved him donated money and found other ways to remember him.

At his clinic in Mission Viejo, Wheaton held “Ford Petersen Spay Day,” providing free spay and neutering services in the young man’s name. The clinic hopes to make it an annual event.

“Ford was a dear friend to all of us … and left a lasting impression on our hearts,” Wheaton told the Orange County Register in February. “He loved helping animals and hoped to make a long-term difference by becoming a veterinarian. While we feel empty with his passing, we hope to allow his life to permanently help animals that are truly in need by designating one day each year as a day of giving back to our community.”

The clinic spayed and neutered 51 animals in Ford’s name that day, and also accepted donations in his name for rescue and rehabilitation efforts.

Ford’s family, meanwhile, has established the Ford Petersen Foundation, which will further assist Wheaton’s pet rescue efforts, Brian Petersen said.

Earlier this week, the family returned to Davis for what was supposed to have been a very joyous occasion — watching Ford walk across a stage and receive his diploma.

Instead, Brian Petersen had contacted the school to find out if a degree could be awarded to Ford posthumously.

According to UCD spokeswoman Julia Ann Easley, one or two families a year receive a UCD degree awarded posthumously to a loved one. The Academic Senate will award them to undergraduates who are within 15 units of completing their degree requirements. Ford fit the bill.

So his family traveled to Davis last week, in time to attend the graduation ceremonies of some of Ford’s close friends. On Sunday, they arrived at The Pavilion for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences ceremony.

In a room off the Pavilion floor, they met with faculty and staff. Chancellor Linda Katehi was there to greet them, as was the college’s interim dean, Mary Delany, an animal science professor who knew Ford.

Betty Petersen was given a cap and gown and tassel, just like the ones Ford would have worn, and the family was escorted to seats looking down on the stage.

When the time came to award the diplomas, Ford’s came first.

Delany called his untimely death “heartbreaking,” but added that, “we are so proud and honored that he chose to be an Aggie.”

To Brian and Betty, who came to the stage to accept Ford’s diploma, she said, “We congratulate you on raising a son and a scholar.”

“We are proud to have known him,” she said.

The Petersens accepted the framed diploma and carried it back to their seats, where with their family members, they watched and applauded as the rest of Ford’s classmates, one by one, received their own diplomas.

It was where they were supposed to be, but not at all how it should have been.

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