In May 2011, Jason Kinzler died while running the Fifth Third River Bank Run, leaving behind his wife, Kristi, and three children. As friends approached Kristi about how they could help support the family and honor Jason, a vision was formed: The Jason Kinzler Family First Foundation. While Kristi knew her family would be OK financially, her work as a counselor in the Godwin Heights Public School system showed that for many families, the death of a head of the family brought immense financial hurdles, in addition to the terrible emotional blow. This gave her an idea about how to channel the good intentions of those who wanted to help her family.
With help from family friends, Kristi established the Jason Kinzler Family First Foundation, which provides guidance, support, direct and indirect financial assistance, and general charitable relief to—or to benefit—families with minor children who have unexpectedly lost one or both caregivers through sudden death.
Through her job as a school counselor, Kristi connected with the first family the foundation helped. When the family experienced the unexpected death of the father, Kristi went to their home to counsel them. Hearing the mother mention the stress of planning the funeral, not knowing how she would pay for it, Kristi found her first opportunity to put Jason’s foundation into action. She describes that day as her “full circle moment,” in which she saw the immense good that could come from the foundation’s work. After she explained how the foundation could offer assistance, Kristi said the women took her hand, and said, “You have given me hope.” For Kristi and her children, providing hope to other families has been an important part of their own healing.
The foundation raises funds by hosting an annual dinner with motivational speakers (this year’s features Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly) and through the fundraising efforts of “Team Kinzler,” which participates in the Fifth Third River Bank Run. To join the “team,” members must raise $100 in pledges for the foundation. Members can also join by making a $100 donation. To join “Team Kinzler,” go to here. The race is Saturday, May 10.
In the past year, the foundation has helped ten families in West Michigan, assisting with funeral expenses, paying for car repairs, making mortgage payments, and even replacing a damaged roof. “I don’t ever want anyone to forget Jason,” Kristi said, “and the foundation gives us a way to build a legacy and honor his memory.”
Visit www.kinzlerfoundation.org for more information about the Jason Kinzler Family First Foundation.
Written by: Jennifer Reynolds is a staff writer for West Michigan Woman.