A new charity organization in California that awards college scholarships to children of workers who suffer catastrophic or fatal workplace injuries is asking the workers’ compensation community to help in identifying potential applicants.
California is the 24th state chapter of Kids’ Chance, a national nonprofit organization created in 1988 to provide educational opportunities and scholarships for the children of workers seriously injured or killed on the job.
The average scholarship size is $5,000 throughout the country. Usually, the nonprofit awards scholarships to the same students each semester until they finish school, according to Kevin Turner, a member of the board of directors for the national Kids’ Chance organization. Turner said scholarships can be awarded quarterly or by semester.
Turner, who is also senior vice president of sales and account management for Paradigm Management Services, said California was a natural target for Kids’ Chance because of its size. With 37 million residents, California is the most populous state.
Paradigm aligned with Kids’ Chance in January and launched a charitable partnership through which it gives a portion of the proceeds from each catastrophic case it manages to the charity.
“Our mission is to get Kids’ Chance in every state,” he said. “We’re a California employer and California is the largest state for catastrophic losses in our world.”
At a founder’s meeting on Dec. 7 in Walnut Creek, Kids’ Chance of California was officially created and the following officers were elected:
— Maria Henderson, senior director for workforce health and productivity for Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E), was elected president.
— Lisa Simone, workers’ compensation claims director for Everest Re Group Ltd.’s office in Oakland, was elected vice president.
— Christopher Thomas, project manager for safety, health and claims at PG&E, was elected treasurer.
— Kevin Confetti, director of workers’ compensation for the University of California, was elected secretary.
Turner said the now that a board has been established, it has to set rules that will be specific to California. While the national organization will provide guidance, Turner said it is up to each state chapter to select how it wants to award the scholarships.
“They’ll establish a scholarship committee that will make the rules on who can apply for the scholarships and decide whether to do one a year or two a year,” he said.
The national organization will provide seed money to get started, but Turner said the California board members will also need to focus on fundraising efforts. He said the board will start by focusing on Northern California, but will incorporate Southern
“We need to have representation from all factions that are involved in workers’ compensation,” Turner said. “Defense attorneys, plaintiff attorneys, hospitals, rehabilitation providers; it shouldn’t just be insurance and employers.”
The California board of directors is looking for volunteers, but that’s not its largest challenge.
“One of the biggest problems is finding children of catastrophically and fatally injured workers who can receive these scholarships,” Turner said. “In other states, the scholarships sometimes go unused because they can’t find applicants, and that is a challenge in California.”
Turner said it is possible that a scholarship will be awarded in 2012, but it is more likely that the first one won’t be available until 2013.
Kids Chance was founded in 1988 by Bob Clyatt, an attorney who represents injured workers in Georgia. Since then it has awarded more than $5 million through 2,000 educational scholarships in states, including Colorado, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas.
Turner said after getting the California chapter running, he is focusing on establishing chapters in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin.