Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Kids' Chance, an Organization, a Movement

November can be a busy and stressful month. Each year, I find myself focused almost singularly upon the preparation, checking, editing and publication of the Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims Annual Report. Through long days and nights, my focus on that responsibility significantly eclipses the opportunity to pay attention to much else. This blog will provides some excerpts of that report in coming days. 

But, November is a month which brings various, broader, thoughts to Americans. Most recently, we paused November 11 to recognize the many veterans for whose service and sacrifice we are all endebted beyond means to repay. Soon, there will be Thanksgiving, the official start of the holiday shopping season, and those special Friday and Cyber-Monday events. And, some decades ago, our leaders decided this would be the best month in which to hold elections. November is simply a busy and eventful month.

Kids' Chance adopted November for Kids' Chance Awareness Week. Kids' Chance is a scholarship organization that is focused on providing educational assistance and opportunities for the dependents of workers' catastrophically injured on-the-job. The organization has been around since 1988, almost 30 years. It was founded in Georgia, and has since become a national phenomenon with affiliated charitable organizations in 36 states. 

I spoke at the AmComp Annual Meeting this fall. AmComp is focused on providing an intense and broad workers' compensation education for industry professionals. At the outset of their meeting last month, representatives of the local Kids' Chance were afforded a few minutes to discuss their efforts and success. 

They said Kids' Chance of New York (KCNY) was then about a year old. These leaders detailed how they organized and delivered scholarships in their first year of existence. The AmComp audience was visibly touched when a letter from one of the scholarship recipients was read aloud, describing enthusiasm for study and scholarship. There is something about young people driving for success and their future that gets to us all. Maybe it is the chance to remember a time when our own futures seemed to stretch before us, limitless?

I found the KCNY progress interesting. Kids Chance of Florida is likewise a young organization. In fact, it was founded at a meeting in Tampa, Florida on December 7, 2015. Kids' Chance of Florida likewise surpassed all expectations. In August 2016 Kids' Chance of Florida was honored to take center stage at the Workers' Compensation Institute (WCI) in Orlando and announce the presentation of four scholarships for young Floridians. 

From across the country, state by state, stories of student inspiration and success could be recited. Volunteers of various professional affiliations could be named and described, their efforts and dedication showcased. But, I have learned quickly that many of those volunteers eschew attention and recognition. They simply have no interest in publicity or notariety. They have a singular interest instead, focused on facilitating opportunities for worthy young people whose lives have accidentally become intertwined with the nation's workers' compensation systems. 

I have been privileged to hear a few of those students' stories. These young people are inspirational and their focus is heartwarming. Theirs are stories of academic success and social involvement, of athletic endeavors and community service. Those stories include elements of tragedy, dispair, perserverance, hope, and triumph that are touching, inspirational and affirming. 

Kids' Chance is postively touching young lives in 36 states. And, while that is certainly worthy of recognition and appreciation, it is as important that we recognize that new affilates are even now in the formation and incorporation process. As the Kids' Chance of New York officials presented at AmComp, Paul Sighinolfi, of Maine, leaned over and confided to me that Maine will soon add the 37th or 38th state affiliate. So, Maine is coming soon, and they are not alone. 

One of the other things of which November reminds me is the great Thanksgiving Day Massacre memorialized by Arlo Guthrie in 1967. It is a long (this song runs more than 20 minutes) narrative regarding an embellished rendition of the author's Thanksgiving 1965. It contains a fair few jabs at the establishment and politics of the day. Whatever ones' view of the Vietnam War, as the song approaches its 50th anniversary, it remains interesting and poignant. It involves a description of Arlo speaking to a psychiatrist, and essentially telling the doctor what Arlo thinks he wants to hear. 

Near the conclusion, Arlo suggests that his song could be more than a listening experience. He notes that others might find themselves engaged with the status quo or establishment at some point in their lives. He suggests that if you do, you should look that "shrink" right in the eye and sing "you can get anything you want, at Alice's restaurant" (the refrain of the song), and then just "walk out." Arlo continues, regarding the effect that such a serenade might bring (all in italics are direct quote) suggesting: 

if one person, just one person does it they may think he's really sick and they won't take him. 

And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. They may think it's an organization. 

And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. 

And friends they may thinks it's a movement.

As I sit this morning thinking of our upcoming Thanksgiving 2016, Kids' Chance Awareness Week, and our world, I am drawn back to Arlo's mindset and lyrics. While some of his lyrics are dated, they may overall nonetheless convey a sentiment that is worthy. In 1988 one person decided that he could make a difference in the lives of worthy students affected by workplace injuries. Maybe that was just an anomaly. But then there were two, and then there were three. Then there were two states, and then three, four, five states. It had become an "organization."

Can you imagine if there were fifty states in the Kids' Chance choir? Can you imagine fifty states in concert with the harmony of a great purpose? As Arlo suggests, when that day comes, "friends they may think it's a movement." I would say at 36 states it is already a movement, but "friends," there is just no reason that these educational opportunities cannot exist in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and beyond. 

The Kids' Chance website has a map documenting the location of affilate organizations. It seems likely that in the forseable future, there will be Kids' Chance affilates in every state and territory. Kids' Chance awareness week is November 14-18, 2016. The week has been recognized by the White House, and state governments alike. 

Congratulations Kids' Chance! 

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