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AZ Giving and Leading: Acts of Simple Kindness
Original Airdate: 2013-12-02

An Arizona widow turns her grief into action by helping children who have lost parents. The nonprofit, “Acts of Simple Kindness,” provides financial grants to children so they can continue or pursue extracurricular activities like sports, music and the arts. Founder Karen Turner came up with the idea after she saw how sports helped her son heal after his father died.
 
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Ted Simons: Losing a family member is difficult at any age. But for children, it could be especially hard. And in tonight's edition of Arizona giving and leading, producer Christina Estes and photographer Steven snow show us how one group is helping children who suffered the loss of a loved one.

Karen Turner: He was an amazing man, he was funny, and hard worker, and loyal, and great father and amazing husband.

Christina Estes: Karen Turner's joy turned to pain in August of 2007, when her husband, Steve, died unexpectedly.

Karen Turner: He was 41years old. -- I was 38 and our son was just 4 and a half ..

Christina Estes: Telling her son was heart-breaking.

Karen Turner: When you talk to a child about grief, you can't say daddy is sleeping or daddy has gone away. You have to say that daddy has died and is not coming back and is dead. You have to use those words. And it is gut-wrenching.

Christina Estes: Steve's death meant the loss of Alan's basketball Buddy, Karen's confidante, and their security.

Karen Turner: Our health insurance was carried through him and his company. We lost his, our insurance overnight, I lost his income overnight.

Christina Estes: As bills pile up, Karen says it's easy for parents to push aside the extras like sports, tutoring and musical lessons. But it's the little things that can make a difference. She's seen it with her own son.

Karen Turner: Right before Steve passed away, we had talked about enrolling him in T-ball. Steve had grown up playing little leagues, and he could not wait to get his son on the field. So when he died, I went ahead and enrolled him in T-ball, and first we played t-ball that and then soccer and then flag football, and that was it for him. He just -- on that field, he's like every other kid. And not one person there cares if his dad has died, they care that he's going to. Was the ball and he's like every other kid, and that's important for a child.

Christina Estes: Seeing Allen smile made Karen smile and led her to create Act of Simple Kindness

Karen Turner: Acts of simple kindness stands for a for Allen and s, for my husband, Steve, and then Karen.

Christina Estes: The group provides financial friends to cover extracurricular activities for children who lost parents.

Christina Estes: Susan Johnson used a grant to cover the gymboree membership for his son.

Susan Johnson: We had his half birthday and a week later his father took his life. He was dealing with -- he had issues with drugs and alcohol. And so, I became a widow when he was six months. And being a single mom, in my 30s, I don't have any friends that have lost a spouse. All my friends are either single or newly married or, you know? Their happy times. I didn't have anyone to relate to. To talk to about losing my husband.

Christina Estes: Until she met Karen and the other families involved in acts of kindness. They understand moving forward is important. And so is cherishing the past.

Allen Turner: We miss him and we still like to talk about him.

Susan Johnson: I have often wondered what he would think about. I didn't want his death to be in vain. I wanted to do something in his name, and I had no idea that an idea that literally started on the back of a napkin, would turn into what it has. I am proud of what we're doing.

Christina Estes: Karen says the grants are gifts. All they ask in return is a photo of the child showing how the money was spent.

Susan Johnson: We had one boy who was in a small town, and when his dad died in a drowning accident, he felt very isolated. There was no one else in his class that understood. So, his mom allowed him to go to the college to take the rest of his courses so that he could graduate from high school. And I think one of the best pictures we got was when he sent us a picture of him in his cap and gown because he was able to graduate thanks to a grant we had given him.

Ted Simons: Acts of simple kindness has helped nearly 60 children, the group relies on corporate and individual donations along with a charity bowling party set for February. You can find out more information at actsofsimplekindness.org.

Ted Simons: Tomorrow on "Arizona Horizon," we'll see how Arizona -year-olds stack up in a study measuring the proficiency in reading, math and science literacy on the next "Arizona Horizon." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons and thank you very much for joining us, and you have a great evening.

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