Children's charity director sentenced for stealing from kids

I was so disappointed and even depressed this past week to read the news story, “Former children’s charity director gets 3½ years for stealing from program and blowing it on lavish trips, sports tickets.”

The Chicago Tribune reported, “The former head of a North Shore charity for children with disabilities was sentenced Thursday to 3½ years in prison for stealing more than $831,000 from the organization and spending it on luxury vacations, golf outings, sports tickets and other personal expenses.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sheri Mecklenburg wrote, “The money raised by the charity paid not just for sporting events for the children, but also for wheelchairs, therapeutic pools and other rehabilitative equipment. [Stuart] Nitzkin repeatedly has said that he would ‘never hurt the kids,’ but that is exactly what he did.”

When sentencing Nitzkin to one of the highest ends of sentencing guidelines, U.S. District Court Judge Sara Ellis said the case was one of “simple greed” spurred by a man trying to live a life he “couldn’t afford.”

Nitzkin did the crime, and now he must pay the time. As part of his sentencing, Nitzkin was also ordered to pay $516,000 in restitution. He deserves all the penalties Judge Ellis adjudicated upon him.

Like you, I’m rarely shocked anymore when I see someone fall through their failures. What’s so disappointing, however, are the ripple effects that those bad leaders leave upon other honorable charities and their good leaders.

There will always be crooked leaders, some who run even valid charitable organizations – but don’t let their epic failures disillusion and stop you from seeing and supporting those who are tried and true. It’s easy to retreat, and there’s plenty of corruption to justify it. But being generous and partnering with those who need you is one of the finest expressions of patriotism. In a world bent toward selfishness and self-centeredness, giving is a great discipline to help us regain our original purpose: we were born not just to be blessed but to be a blessing to others.

Americans spent roughly $10 billion on Black Friday. They will spend even more on Cyber Monday. I’m so glad that someone started “Giving Tuesday,” an annual observance this week and global movement that reimagines a world built upon shared humanity and generosity.

A while ago my wife, Gena, and I did a WND interview for our KICKSTART KIDS Foundation (KSK at, which teaches character through karate in Texas Middle Schools. I think you will find what we share interesting and maybe even worthy of your “Giving Tuesday” or holiday donations.

Question: Everyone knows you (Chuck) from your martial arts, film and television careers. But you and your wife Gena’s hearts and mission really centers around your foundation, Kickstart Kids, doesn’t it?

Chuck: Yes, it really does. KSK is our life’s mission next to our family and a way for us to give back. In short, KSK teaches character through karate. We work with at-risk kids in the public school system. Hence, we give them a KICKSTART, which means we help build strong, moral character in our youth through the martial arts.

Gena: KSK is dedicated to giving middle-school children the tools and support necessary to build self-esteem, resolve conflicts, avoid bullying, choose a drug-free lifestyle, resist negative peer pressure and remain in school at least until they graduate. Students in the program achieve a higher level of academic success and ultimately become more productive members of their communities.

Question: How did your KSK Foundation start?

Chuck: In 1990, I founded the KICKSTART KIDS Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, with the help of President George H.W. Bush, who encouraged me to start it in Houston. So, we implemented the program in a single public school, teaching the martial arts to 150 at-risk students. Over the past 30 years, KSK has expanded to 60 schools across Texas and has over 8,000 students in the program. KSK is recognized by TEA (Texas Education Agency) allowing Texas’ independent school districts to award up to two Physical Education credits for participation by the students.

Gena: Since its inception, KSK has been endorsed by teachers, parents, school officials and community leaders as having a positive impact on the lives of more than 110,000 alumni. The continued success of KSK is largely due to the committed dedication of over 80 instructors and staff. We have a vision to see it in every school in Texas and beyond.

Question: How is KSK Foundation funded?

Chuck: Largely by individual and corporate sponsors. Great Americans across Texas and our country who believe we need to help the younger generations are among our core supporters. Some of the organizations and companies who have sponsored us also include the Stephen & Mary Birch Foundation, Total Gym, Frank’s International, Mosing Properties, The Bill & Sherry Berry Foundation, Interstate Batteries, Show Biz Cinemas, Kenny and Lisa Troutt, John P. McGovern Foundation, Boone & Toni Pickens, Drayton & Elizabeth McLane, and the list goes on. We are very grateful for each and every one of them.

Gena: We need partners at all levels. We need them from the community level to corporate donors to make this happen. We would love to see WND readers join us, too! Every dollar helps and adds up quickly.

Question: What are your final thoughts?

Chuck: We would like to share that we love being a part of something that’s helping the younger and future generations, and there’s nothing better than KSK as a way of giving back. The youth today face so many obstacles and if we don’t help them, then who will?

We would be honored to have some new partners join us this “Giving Tuesday” or Christmas season by donating online to KICKSTART KIDS here. Tell them Chuck & Gena sent you!

Merry Christmas, America! And may God bless all of our efforts and donations to help humanity and our future generations on this Giving Tuesday and beyond!

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This article was originally published by the WND News Center.

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