I wanted to let everyone know that I have chosen to close Acts of Simple Kindness (ASK) for Kids of Widows and Widowers.
Please know this has not been an easy decision, and I know it comes as a shock to many of you. It’s something I’ve wrestled with for awhile now, but when clarity comes, it’s like a 2×4 upside the head – and I’m absolutely certain this is the right decision at the right time.
Steve died in 2007 and I first had the idea of ASK in 2008. For 8 years, I have devoted everything I’ve had to helping kids of widows and widowers find hope again through extracurricular activities. It was in watching my own son, Allen, navigate the death of his father at the age of 4 ½ that sparked the idea for ASK. And that same boy is almost 13 ½, nearly as tall as me and he only has 5 more years before he leaves for college. The last 9 years have flown by, and I know the next 5 years will be over before I know it.
Allen was one of the primary reasons I started ASK. And he is one of the reasons I’ve chosen to close it. We are both in such a different place today. Together, we worked hard to dig ourselves out of the hole of despair that we found ourselves in after Steve died in 2007. Today, we are both in a happy, loving and positive place. I am remarried to a wonderful man, together we have 3 amazing kids and a long list of things we want to do. I have fought hard for a life worth living again – and I don’t want to miss another minute. I’ve turned down family trips so I could process grants, we haven’t seen the dining room table in months (ASK doesn’t have an office; it’s run from my home), and it’s on my mind 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I feel guilty for taking away time from ASK to do regular things – like take my kiddo to a movie he’s been dying to see. That just isn’t good. My health has suffered, my family needs me, and there are only so many hours in a day – and I’ve reached the point where I really need to focus those hours on myself and my family. I have always struggled with putting myself first – but I’ve lost once, and Steve’s death reminded me that life IS short. I have no regrets for the time devoted to ASK – but it’s time to put me and my family first.
It has been such an honor – a true honor – to walk alongside widowed families and their children for the last 8 years. We have helped more than 400 kids find hope again and I am SO proud of that. On one hand, the decision to move forward to devote more time to my own family is an easy one. A no-brainer of sorts. But the challenge has come in walking away from the families and kids who I’ve grown to care about as extended family, and those who don’t even know their world is about to be turned upside down yet. I have to focus on the kids we’ve helped – not the kids to come. I have to believe that they will find their own paths to healing, as there are amazing non-profits that already exist – and there are those whose ideas are still being scribbled on the back of a napkin like the initial ideas for ASK back in 2008 in the middle of On the Border while eating chips and salsa, bonding with a margarita.
While ASK has been my labor of love for 8 years – I haven’t done it alone. We have had amazing supporters and donors, who have attended our events, had fundraisers for us, shared our posts, told people about us, put up with my gazillion posts and messages – thank you for believing in us all these years. And to our Board of Directors – from day one, I’ve been surrounded by people who believed in ASK and what we do. From Bonnie and I sitting at Peter Piper Pizza on Mother’s Day one year, while the kids played and we filled out our 501(c)3 application to Suzanne, Rose and Kathi who currently serve with me – just wow. Every Board Member has been a volunteer – not one dollar in compensation for tireless hours of events, research, planning and Board Meetings. A special shout out to my best friend, Laurie – we’ve been friends for more than 26 years and she has been by my side each and every day of ASK. Setting up garage sales, putting bows on auction items, writing grants – she has been at every major event and she’s been my rock. I probably would have made this decision a few years ago if not for – she’s walked me off more ledges than I can count and I’m truly grateful for her friendship. ASK wouldn’t have been the same without her. And a HUGE thank you to Dennis – he’s been supportive of ASK since day one, and even through this decision, has been amazingly supportive of my decision, either way. I’m truly blessed with the people in my life.
And to the families and kids that we have helped. THANK YOU. When I couldn’t handle the grief and loneliness within my own changed family after Steve died, your families helped me to keep moving. From Aria, our first grantee to the more than 400 kids we helped – you helped me more than you know. Dance, karate, swimming, Harry Potter camp, driver’s education, baseball, football, lacrosse, basketball, volleyball, college courses to graduate high school, ballet, gymnastics, crew, Boy Scout camp – ALL of it. So much to be proud of!
We are going out on top. We are the strongest we have ever been and I’m extremely proud of that. I did entertain options of someone taking ASK over – but for a variety of reasons, it’s simply not a viable option. It really is best to close things up, go out on top, and be grateful. Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened is a good saying for this situation, I think. There have been a lot of tears – I won’t lie – but it’s time to smile and be grateful for what was because ASK mattered.
ASK will continue to accept grant applications until June 1, 2016. All grants will be issued before June 15th, 2016 and ASK will cease day to day operations on July 1, 2016. Grant checks are good for 90 days, so we expect to completely wrap ASK up by mid September.
The painting fundraiser at ArTherapy for Me in Glendale will still go forward on July 23rd, but the donation will be made to the Steven M. Turner Scholarship Fund with Stepping Stones of Hope, a Phoenix-based organization that offers grief camps to kids. Allen attended his first Camp Paz in March of 2008, and I established the Turner Fund shortly after. We are still involved with Stepping Stones, it’s a wonderful program, and the $250 donation from ArTherapy will go a long way to help kids.
Once the last grant check has cleared the bank, per the IRS regulations that dictate dissolving a 501(c)3 organization – all remaining funds will be dispersed to like-minded charities that help grieving families and children.
Thank you for your years of support, love and understanding.
Love and blessings,
Karen Turner Marion
Acts of Simple Kindness, Inc. (ASK) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charitable organization that provides financial grants to children, through the age of 18, to continue or pursue extracurricular activities in the areas of education, sports, music and the arts following the death of a parent. The loss of a spouse and parent is difficult enough without worrying about how to afford the programs that will bring their grieving children happiness, provide stability and often fulfill a wish of a parent no longer here to grant the wish themselves. Acts of Simple Kindness, Inc. was created so that this very important and overlooked need would be provided for. Children who have lost a parent did not ask for their lives to be so drastically changed. With your generous donations, together we can help kids of widows and widowers with the small things that make a BIG difference. Thank you in advance for your support!