When a Maryland worker is injured or killed on the job, the loss is devastating to the entire family. Thousands of Maryland workers suffer this fate every year, immobilizing families and robbing children of their future educational aspirations. But, thanks to the efforts of two local lawyers, Maryland kids enduring this tragedy now have a chance at a future.
Two workers’ compensation attorneys, S. Woods Bennett and Jeff Horowitz, saw how the children of injured workers were being affected and created a remarkable charitable solution to give them the chance they might have had had destiny not intervened in their lives. In 2000, Horowitz and Bennett launched Kids’ Chance of Maryland Inc., a non-profit organization that gives kids the opportunity to pursue post-educational studies and fulfill their dreams. Kids’ Chance (www.kidschance-md.org) provides scholarship money to support the children of seriously injured workers.
In the last 10 years, Kids’ Chance has awarded between $60,000 and $75,000 in educational scholarships to deserving young people. This unique charity raises money through donations and fundraisers and gives it away in educational scholarships, benefiting roughly 70 kids a year. Today, it supports 14 students per semester, with a scholarship averaging between $500 and $4,000. Thanks to this outstanding volunteer effort, spearheaded by these two compassionate attorneys, Kids’ Chance has enabled children of injured workers to attend colleges, trade schools and other post-graduate institutions across the country.
“What we do is really selfless,” states Horowitz, “the ‘feel good’ benefit we get in helping these kids is beyond any description of words.”
“It is an amazing myriad of emotions you feel in helping these kids,” Bennett concurs. “If anything, it is selfish on our part because we get to feel good about what we are doing.”
Kids’ Chance was actually conceived by the workers’ compensation community. “Workers’ compensation benefits only go so far in compensating injured workers and their families,” explains Bennett, a partner at the law firm Cornblatt, Bennett, Penhallegon & Roberson, P.A., and workers’ compensation law attorney for 33 years. “The real need of children in these cases is education, but the benefits are not set up to take care of their educational needs.”
“It is a shortfall in the law,” adds Horowitz, a partner in the law firm Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, L.L.C. and workers’ compensation practitioner for 28 years. “There are death benefits awarded, but there is a limit based on the average wage, etc., so only so much can be paid.” But now, Kids’ Chance steps in and helps provide educational assistance so these kids can pursue their post-graduate plans and ensure their future.
Kids’ Chance of Maryland is modeled after the first such charity in the U.S., created in Georgia in 1988. Horowitz and Bennett, in conjunction with Maryland’s Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) headed by then-Chairman Charles Krysiak, developed a pilot, incorporated, organized a coalition and established a board of directors including many volunteer lawyers, educators and representatives from rehabilitation, labor, management, insurance, construction and other industries. The Maryland chapter of Kids’ Chance was launched in 1998.
The Board, working with its executive director, creates visibility and awareness of Kids’ Chance’s existence, fosters fundraising efforts and actively recruits potential students for the scholarships. One of its biggest challenges is finding qualified students. Recipients are recruited through school guidance counselors, who receive alerts about Kids’ Chance post-high school scholarship opportunities for trade schools, community colleges, four-year colleges and other appropriate training after high school.
Kids’ Chance is also promoted within the industry, as insurance adjusters, vocational rehabilitation counselors, attorneys and the WCC Commissioners are all acquainted with potential scholarship recipients and can refer students for possible assistance. MSBA’s Negligence, Insurance and Workers’ Compensation Section is also effective in spreading the word at MSBA events.
The application process is simple. Qualified students submit applications, which are reviewed by the Board. “Financial need is the single greatest qualifying factor,” asserts Horowitz, “and if the need is there, we do our best to meet it with scholarship assistance, as long as the student is in good standing.” Bennett adds, “We follow them throughout their school career, continuing until they graduate; we have helped with graduate studies, too. We offer up to $4,000 per semester as a stipend, a large undertaking for us.”
“The highlight of our board meetings is always giving out the scholarships. It is a wonderful opportunity for us as well as for the kids,” beams Bennett. “When you can combine your everyday work as a workers’ comp attorney and utilize what you do in your day-to-day work to help somebody through a charity that is connected to what you do, it is all the more fulfilling.”
This undertaking is financed through active fundraising on the part of Kids’ Chance’s Board. “Our primary fundraiser is our big gala and we also sponsor a golf tournament at the annual WCC Conference,” reports Horowitz. “Kids’ Chance also sends out solicitations and has attracted the support of several industries and even a Ravens’ fan support club, which helps with raising funds,” adds Bennett. Attorneys have been most supportive with donations and supporting the gala.
“At the gala, when the scholarship kids get up and tell their stories and send you thank-you letters, you see what a difference you have made in their lives,” Horowitz exclaims, “you just want to cry. It makes you feel so good to be able to help these kids under these circumstances.”
Today, 27 states have local Kids’ Chance chapters, and a national Kids’ Chance organization was formed in 2005 to assist with the development of new chapters, help with fundraising at the national level, offer support with the ethical obligations non-profits confront and generally support the state chapters. Bennett becomes President of National Kids’ Chance on May 1.
Horowitz and Bennett remind Maryland attorneys that Kids’ Chance is a service to their clients. “Be aware of how Kids’ Chance serves the children of injured workers,” urges Bennett, “and keep an eye out for anyone in cases you handle or cases you know of where a kid might benefit from a Kids’ Chance scholarship.” All interested applicants should go to www.kidschance-md.org. “Let these kids know about Kids’ Chance,” Horowitz asserts, “it is a selfless way to help your clients by directing them to a source of scholarship money.”
Kids’ Chance will host its annual gala beginning at 6:00 p.m. on May 27 at the Boumi Temple in White Marsh. Visit the website, www.kidschance-md.org, for further details.