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Kids’ Chance: For WV Children of Workers Killed, Disabled On the Job

October 25, 2011

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - One of several reports on the Upper Big Branch mine accident 18 months ago comes out this week from the United Mine Workers Union. Last year, in part because of the UBB disaster, West Virginia had more than twice the workplace deaths of the previous year. But there is at least some help for the families workers leave behind.

A scholarship from a group called Kids' Chance helps the children of workers who die or are disabled on the job pay for college. Kimberly Payne's husband was disabled while working on a bridge.

"My son was six years old at the time, so he grew up in the hospitals along with his dad. And he went on to go to Harvard."

Payne says it was amazing to find there was a scholarship for families like theirs. She's gone on to serve on the organization's state board.

"We're like family now. There's kids that we've been in the program with ever since Ansel was there and we still meet at Christmas, and we get Christmas cards from."

The national Kids' Chance program came to West Virginia in 1998. Jim Bowen, who was the state AFL-CIO president at the time, wanted to honor his daughter, who had died in an industrial accident. Bowen spoke to Governor Cecil Underwood, who appointed a task force that included Weston attorney Bob Stultz. Stultz went on to become the state Kids' Chance president, which he says is very fulfilling.

"Just seeing them develop and grow, and come back and tell their stories, that's a very moving experience."

Kimberly Payne says she would like to see the program get more support.

"West Virginians are known for helping each other. And especially when you have a child that has either a death or a severe disability in their family, it puts a burden on these children."

Kids' Chance West Virginia has distributed about $100,000 in scholarships with as many as 14 students in the program at a time. Families can find out more at

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV