What do close friends and fellow Kiwanians do when a community leader dies at age 58?  How do they honor him and establish a legacy?  That was a question that members of the Kiwanis Club of St. Petersburg dealt with upon the premature death of Kiwanian Jim Fischer in 2004.  Together with his wife, Suzi, a partnership was created with the Pinellas Education Foundation and the Mayor of St. Petersburg’s Take Stock in Children Scholarship Program to provide free college tuition to disadvantaged 6th graders who might not otherwise be able to attend college. The Take Stock in Children Scholarship requires them to maintain a C or better average in every subject, stay crime and drug free and graduate from high school in order to utilize this scholarship.  

To raise funds for this Program, the Kiwanis Club of St. Petersburg, through its Scholarship Committee, started an annual Birthday Bash around the anniversary of Jim’s birthday to raise funds through donations and silent and live auctions. As a result of the 2005 Bash, sufficient funds were raised to provide 23 6th grade students with free college tuition upon meeting the above conditions. In addition to receiving this conditional scholarship, the Take Stock in Children Program provides each student with a mentor.  Statistics have shown that normally, less than half of these students would graduate from high school.  Through the Doorways Program, there was a 93% graduation rate! 

Each year, the Birthday Bash became bigger and better.  Tragically, in 2008, another community leader and fellow Kiwanian, Skip Carr, died suddenly.  Skip was a very involved Committee member and a close friend of Jim Fischer.  The Committee decided to amend the name of the scholarship fund to become the Fischer-Carr Scholarship Fund. 

Each year became more and more successful.  The 2014 Birthday Bash had over 200 attendees.  During his tenure as football coach of the University of South Florida, Jim Leavitt, a close friend of Jim Fischer, was actively involved in the Bash.  St. Petersburg Mayors Rick Baker and Bill Foster have annually attended the Event.  The Event attracts friends and colleagues of Jim and Skip in an informal setting to enjoy themselves, reminisce about the honored Kiwanians, bid on silent and live auction items and hear testimonials from scholarship recipients.  Last year a golf tournament was added.  This resulted in a total donation for 2014 of $64,000.00 for scholarships. Since 2004, the Kiwanis Club of St. Petersburg has provided free college tuition to 226 deserving students who might not have otherwise been able to attend college!  

Over the course of their weekly meetings, letters from these students are read to the members which outline their current status and their educational goals.  To have these students annually express their appreciation of their scholarship and more importantly, outline their educational and occupational goals, demonstrate the positive effect of the scholarship on their commitment, not only to going to college, but to use their scholarship to recognize their dreams.

The partnership between the Fischer-Carr Scholarship Committee, the Mayor’s Scholarship Program and the Pinellas Education Foundation has made a huge difference in 226 lives. 

2015 Birthday Bash

The 11th Annual Fischer-Carr Birthday Bash will take place on May 16, 2015.  The friends, family and colleagues of Jim Fischer and Skip Carr, under the leadership of the Kiwanis Club of St. Petersburg, will continue the legacy of two community leaders and well-loved individuals.

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