Special/Signature Issues » 2016 Top 40 Under 40

Chris Beach, 38

Executive Director, The Relationship Foundation of Virginia

After his parents’ divorce when he was 16, without a father in the picture, Chris Beach says his life morphed from everyday teenager to someone helping support his sister and mom. The experience gave him empathy for others facing similar challenges — and the motivation to help.

Education was his first calling, working 10 years for the Henrico County Public Schools. But a switch from teacher to administrator — focusing on test scores and budgets — removed him from what he valued most.

“I went into education to teach children and change their lives,” he says, “not to do paperwork.” So he moved into the nonprofit sector, to Big Brothers Big Sisters and then to the Friends Association for Children.

Now at the Relationship Foundation of Virginia, Beach brings his philosophy and experience together. In his first year with the organization, he re-branded it from First Things First and streamlined its focus.

He and the organization emphasize strong relationships and communication skills with a goal to build strong marriages, healthy families and successful children, emphasizing the importance of engaged fathers.

“It’s rare to find a job that encompasses everything you’ve done in life,” he says.

Beach continues to pursue his goal at home as the father of four sons, 6 to 12. “When I’m not working, I’m on a field somewhere, coaching,” he says, guiding kids and modeling active fatherhood. “My wife and I are very traditional.

“I’m really proud of being the voice for dads across the community,” he says. “A dad is valuable for his presence, not his presents.”

He’s also active in the Rotary Club, Kiwanis, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Hope Church.

Danny Avula, director of the Richmond City Health District, says he’s watched Beach in action: “Chris is an inspiring example of someone who has taken the challenges of his own life … and used them to fuel his passion to bring hope and restoration to broken families across the region.”