There is an excitement that comes with founding an organization. That is perhaps all the more so when you launch a true innovation. In part because of that excitement, the American economy has evolved over the years to afford entrepreneurs with opportunity but built on a foundation of the experiences, and frankly mistakes, of others. In the business of food, services, and sales, the American economy has thrived on the concept of the franchise. Often using that concept, entrepreneurs are born and businesses grown.
The founding of Kids' Chance of Florida, a 501(c)(3) non-profit Florida corporation, followed a similar route. The first Kids' Chance was founded in 1988 in Georgia. The goal then remains the goal now, providing scholarships to the children of workers seriously injured on the job. Thirty years later, Kids' Chance of America now provides support, inspiration, and some funding for affiliates, like Kids' Chance of Florida, in 43 states and territories. And, it is working on the rest: Alaska, District of Columbia, Maine, North Dakota, Rhode Island and Wyoming!
When Kids' Chance of Florida (KCFL) was first discussed, the foreseeable challenge was obvious – fund raising. That is a persistent challenge of any non-profit charity. But, in our formative years, we learned that an even bigger challenge is finding those kids that could benefit from Kids' Chance. Finding them, and getting them to engage and apply. We have learned that today's “next-gen” are bombarded with information, are asked to bring their futures into focus, and like the rest of us have limited time. That is why we need you. We need you to identify outstanding young people and refer them to us so we can encourage them to apply for a scholarship. In hopes of inspiring you, I want to introduce you to some of the stories.
One applicant came to KCFL hoping to attend college. A parent was disabled by a spinal injury. With an eye to medical school one day, this application noted “I am first generation to finish high school.” The child describes a date of accident, an “an unfortunate tragedy,” by which “my entire family's life changed completely.” There were surgeries, treatment, and complications. The applicant noted that “despite all the hardships my father has gone through he still sees the positive side of everything. I will always be grateful for having such an amazing father that has set the perfect example for me to follow in life.” The applicant graduated high school and state college (Associate of Arts) simultaneously with a 5.51 high school and 4.0 college GPA.
Impressed yet? Hold on. This student accomplished this while “working to help support my family and help my mother out with the bills around the house.” The application included glowing references and documented contribution of an incredible volume of community service hours. A Kids' Chance scholarship facilitated this student's attendance at a premier Florida university, where outstanding grades were earned, and where this student's solid future lies.
Another applicant came to Kid's Chance as a sophomore in college, with eyes on a degree in engineering. The applicant described a father's occupational illness, and the impacts on a family. The student noted a close relationship with the father and related that “when he got sick, my life changed and my world was turned upside down.” The student fears for the future, worries about the family, and has learned not to “take anything for granted anymore.” And, the application notes that the student's dad has “taught me to be strong” and to “never give up.” This student is “on track to graduate with honors” in engineering, from a premier Florida University!
Yet another is also the first family member to graduate high school. The student and parents moved in with grandparents following a work injury. But, despite hardship, the student graduated high school with a 3.8 GPA (with a transcript bursting with honors classes). The student recognizes challenges, and made a realistic plan that included a state college and an ultimate goal to attend a Florida university, to study pediatric medicine. The applicant described a one-income household and how that one parent “works non-stop and never gets a break or vacation.” The parent's work ethic has taught the applicant that education is important. The applicant accomplished this academic success despite the fact that following the work accident, the student is responsible for “most of the cooking, cleaning and errands” because of the work injury of one parent and the work schedule of the other.
Yet another hails from a one-parent home, and that parent suffered a serious workers' compensation accident. The student nonetheless maintained a 3.6 GPA and was in a raft of honor societies. Realistic goals were expressed. The plan includes state college with an ultimate goal of a state university. The student describes how “roles have changed” following the work accident. The student has “had to assume more responsibilities” including being the “caregiver.” This student will “never accept ‘no' or defeat,” and the outstanding scholarship application reflects that.
To date, Kids' Chance has distributed 24 scholarships to 14 hard-working and bright students. The list of their credentials, achievements, and attributes is awe-inspiring. We have been fortunate to meet athletes, honor students, valedictorians, and to review a parade of extra-curricular activities, community service hours, part time jobs, family support, and more. We have met the next generation, and are profoundly proud of their maturity, focus, spirit, and drive.
These KCFL “next gens” are pursuing degrees in accounting, archeology, biology, business, engineering, health science, international affairs, middle school education, ocean research, and pharmacy. They are your leaders of tomorrow. They are our future.
In all, a great success for an organization that is not yet three years old. Certainly, there have been challenges. Anyone that has ever run a business understands that there are daily challenges. There have been successes, and Kids' Chance of Florida owes much to the support and experience of Kids' Chance of America, as well as some seasoned volunteers from various other state affiliates.
But, Kids' Chance needs more help. We need referrals. We are convinced that the workers' compensation community knows of many more terrific young people, as worthy or more than those described above. We need you to refer them to us. We need you to reach out and tell those injured workers that opportunity may just await their kids. To this end, we have created a portal on our website for referrals. If you know a family affected by a serious work injury or death, and believe that there are kids that can benefit with financial assistance for education, visit the website today and let us know.
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
Bob has a couple unique personality characteristics. He firmly believes that everyone has the right to his (Bob's) opinion, and while he may not always be right, he is never in doubt. Enter at your own risk, and like all of our blog areas, we encourage you to read the disclaimer at the bottom of the page.
We're not responsible for this guy.....
Bob is an accomplished speaker for the workers' compensation industry. He is available for conferences, corporate events, children's birthday parties and Bar Mitzvahs. You may access his Speakers Brief here.