When Kids’ Chance scholarship recipient Olivia was 16, she lost her father.

He was an IT specialist. His job required him to drive across the country in order to serve his clients to assist with their technological needs. Then, one Christmas, he got in an accident driving through Texas.  He didn’t survive.

A sophomore in high school at the time, Olivia knew her father would want her to continue her education. But she didn’t know if her family could afford it. Her father was the family’s breadwinner.

Still, he played a big role in developing her educational interests. He taught her to love marine animals during days at the beach together in Florida, where she spent her childhood. He watched nature documentaries with her. She knew he’d want her to find a way to study marine science in college. She knew she wanted to do it — even if she had to work multiple jobs to complete her degree.

Enter Kids’ Chance. Kids’ Chance of Florida (KCFL) awarded her a scholarship. It enabled her to pursue  a master’s degree in marine science.

“Walking into it, I thought Kids’ Chance was going to be like any other scholarship. Let’s interview, cut your check, here’s your money. Instead, I found a community. They don’t just care about helping us financially. They care about our wellbeing,” she told Kids’ Chance.

“Kids’ Chance has changed my life by being the community that I needed in my darkest time … supporting me throughout my education, and then further throughout my career.”

Stories like Olivia’s inspire volunteers across the country to support Kids’ Chance.

That includes people like Don Terry. In addition to being the provider relations director at QLI, Terry serves as a board member at Kids’ Chance of Nebraska (KCNE). He has served as president of the organization and gone on to serve on the board at the national level.

Terry feels that the kids’ stories capture what Kids’ Chance is all about: giving kids of workers who have been injured on the job a chance at a better future by providing scholarships and support.

“It has been pretty extraordinary for these kids to shoulder that burden of loss and figure out a way to make good things happen or to control their destiny moving forward,” Terry said.

Growing the Kids’ Chance Community

The kids have served as the impetus for Kids’ Chance since day one. While the workers’ compensation industry can support the injured worker, the injured worker isn’t the only one affected by the accident. The families of these workers are impacted too.

From one organization in Georgia, the national Kids’ Chance community has grown to include Kids’ Chance of America (KCOA) as well as a presence in all 50 states. It has awarded over 10,000 scholarships totaling more than $36 million dollars.

Kevin Turner, Chief Growth Officer, Paradigm

Kevin Turner, chief growth officer at Paradigm, has been involved with Kids’ Chance for 14 years. He’s served on the national board and has also led Kids’ Chance of America as chair of the advisory board.

In the early days of Turner’s tenure, Kids’ Chance of America focused on helping state-level organizations get started through outreach to individuals from across a state’s workers’ compensation community who showed interest in supporting the Kids’ Chance cause.

“Gaining interest and forming a board proved to be easier than standing up a functioning organization that actually reaches kids in need, but through the efforts of those individuals, along with financial and consulting support from Kids’ Chance of America, the states took off,” Turner said, when he won the Robert M. Clyatt Award, in recognition for his support for the organization.

Over time, Kids’ Chance leadership recognized that not only would each state need to raise sufficient capital to fund their scholarships, but they would also need to identify all the eligible applicants in their state.

That spurred Kids’ Chance of America to develop the Planning for the Future initiative. Through this initiative Kids’ Chance  identifies eligible applicants regardless of their age and connect them to the right state organization when the time to apply for a scholarship arrives. Kids’ Chance has children as young as two months and as old as 18 years in its database.

Last year, Kids’ Chance saw a 20% increase in submissions. Submissions on behalf of students aged 15 and under increased by 41%, which means they’re effectively identifying kids no matter how old they are. Kids’ Chance of America, with the help of our community, will need to be prepared to fund those scholarships once these kids reach the right age.

“We have over 1,300 kids in that database today,” Turner said. “It’s exciting to see the growth.”

Kids’ Chance of America also plays a pivotal role in fundraising by providing a national platform for the cause, giving states a uniform distribution each year, and offering expertise in nonprofit fundraising and best practices. They also facilitate cross-state idea-sharing, which helps make all the organizations more successful.

“If one state has this really great idea, another state can say, ‘Oh, that’s kind of cool. We’ll try that in our state,’ ” Terry said.

“We were instrumental in planting the seed in many states, and now Kids’ Chance of America is there to nurture that seed,” said Turner. “We give them the resources to reach more children.”

“I’ve been really impressed with Kids’ Chance of America,” added Emma Wilson, attorney at Breen Veltman Wilson and president of Kids’ Chance of Idaho (KCID). “They are a huge resource, and they are great to help the states,” Wilson said.

Kids’ Chance Needs Leaders

The challenges both Turner and Terry faced in seeding and running state-level organizations remain. Kids’ Chance of America continues to develop ways to support sustainable state organizations — from providing a branded website solution to subsidizing a scholarship platform to delivering hands-on expert support that meets states where they are — but few of these approaches work without leadership at both the state and national levels.

Here are three ways you can serve as a leader in the Kids’ Chance community:

1) Make a significant donation — then encourage others to give.

Identifying more applicants means Kids’ Chance needs to be in a position to award more scholarships. Moreover, the average scholarship award has remained relatively stable over the past 10 years despite increases in the costs of higher education.

You can make a gift to Kids’ Chance of America knowing that it will support all 50 states. You can also give to the Kids’ Chance community in your state.

Then ask others to follow your example. You can do that in a big way through social media. You can also do that in a personal way by reaching out directly to people you know. You can also wrap your company around the cause to get even more people involved and on their way to a leadership level.

2) Connect Kids’ Chance to kids.

Kids’ Chance wants to reach every eligible kid, and the members of the workers’ compensation community are in a unique position to help. “It takes a village,” Turner said. “This is a good cause, and the cause is so unique to workers’ compensation.”

You can refer kids to Planning for the Future through the Kids’ Chance of America website. You can also collaborate with Kids’ Chance to integrate the initiative into the work you do and mobilize your employees to make referrals more systematically. Jennifer Wolf, the executive vice president for MWCIA and a Kids’ Chance of America board member, has spearheaded a task force focused on this initiative, including how to embed it into those companies with direct access to families. Kids’ Chance has already collaborated with some of its national partners.

3) Make Kids’ Chance leadership opportunities growth opportunities for your employees.

Whether they serve on a state-level board, serve on the national board, participate on Kids’ Chance committees, spearhead efforts within your organization, develop a pipeline to eligible applicants, become a major donor or advocate for Kids’ Chance publicly, taking a leadership role within the Kids’ Chance community allows your employees to develop skills that will also benefit them in their work with you.

“You’ve got to have boots on the ground, whether that’s volunteering to be on a board, whether it’s volunteering to be on a committee, participating in fundraisers, or most importantly in the industry of helping us find kids,” Terry said.

Leading the Next Generation

As Kids’ Chance expands the next generation of scholarship recipients, so too must it cultivate the next generation of leaders.

Roberto Ceniceros, Kids’ Chance board member, Idaho Chapter

In Idaho, Kids’ Chance board member, retired senior editor of Risk & Insurance®, and the former chair of National Comp Roberto Ceniceros finds that volunteering with Kids’ Chance of Idaho (KCID) gives him a way to directly support the kids. Often, their parent’s work injury inspires them to go into careers in workplace safety or medicine.

“They’re really impactful stories to read,” Ceniceros said. “They want to be doctors or nurses because of their parent’s injury.”

No matter what they want to do, these scholarships support the educational journeys of kids whose futures were altered after the injury changed their lives. Ceniceros recalls speaking with the mother of one of the KCID scholarship recipients. She told him that she and her son would have struggled to pay for his college education without the help from Kids’ Chance.

“He was a really bright student, high achiever, high GPA, and it was questionable for them how they were going to put the money together,” he said. KCID was able to step in and offer him a scholarship.

“We provide those folks a sense of hope for their future,” Terry said. “It feels good to be able to provide that information, whether it’s to a family that’s got a nine-year-old or someone who’s graduating high school.”

As a leader, you can not only be a part of this community, you can also help it to grow and effectively fulfill its mission.

The kids need you to step up. &

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