Aiken Standard Person of the Year: Kevin and Brittany Kisner
It all boils down to chances and opportunities.
As a professional golfer, Kevin Kisner firmly believes that’s all you can ask for in tournaments – to have a chance. Sometimes the simplest facts turn out to be true in life as well.
Sometimes people just need a chance.
His wife, Brittany, agrees. So when she saw there was a need to provide more children in Aiken County with a better chance, she took full advantage of her background, and her passion to help kids.
It’s one thing to simply talk about the importance of making a difference in your community. It’s another thing to use your name, knowledge and connections to positively affect eight organizations, provide two students with scholarships and start a program with the hope of impacting a majority of the nearly 10,000 kids under the age of 5 in Aiken County.
That’s exactly what Kevin and Brittany did in 2018. They also did it while juggling a hectic schedule and raising two young children of their own.
This year marked the first time the Kisner Foundation, which held its first fundraising event in 2017, was able to actually put its fundraising dollars to use.
“I don’t know if we’re smart or crazy to start this when we have two small children,” Kevin joked. “Obviously, we get asked to give to a lot of different organizations throughout the community, and we thought this was the best way to give our efforts. It takes a lot of time and a big commitment. It’s well worth it when you see the change you’ve helped make in the community.”
The fruits of Kevin and Brittany’s philanthropic labor are also what make the couple qualify for the Aiken Standard’s 2018 Person of the Year honor.
Kevin and Brittany’s impact is not only felt by the people whose lives they changed, but also by the members who work to help make the foundation a success. Their family-oriented approach is on display in their endeavors throughout the community and in their work.
“Working for the Kisners has been one of the most rewarding and humbling experiences of my career. The family values they have allow me to be a working mother, always putting family first, and the changes they are making in the community have had a major impact on me personally,” said Leanna Wanta, Kisner Foundation executive director. “There is nothing better than being a part of giving back to a community on such a tremendous level and seeing the change in children’s lives.”
Kevin and Brittany achieved some of the ambitious goals they set in the foundation’s infancy. The scope of what they accomplished included different types of organizations that meet various needs of kids of all ages across the CSRA.
Children’s Place Inc. received $20,000 for a new bus. The Kisners donated $10,000 to University Hospital for its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Milk Program. They also gave a $9,000 grant to Mental Health America of Aiken County to help with its Nurture Home program.
Other organizations that were impacted by the Kisner Foundation in 2018 included Aiken Junior Sports Association, PlaySafe, Great Oak Aiken Therapeutic Riding Center, Ferst Readers and Public Education Partners of Aiken County.
The latter two are part of a bigger goal that’s special to the Kisners.
The Kisner Foundation started its own program, Tee Up to Read, in conjunction with Ferst Readers and Public Education Partners. The campaign’s goal is to better prepare children for school prior to entering kindergarten by strengthening their reading skills. Kids enrolled in the Tee Up to Read program will receive a book a month each year of the child’s life from birth to age 5. Ferst Readers will also send tools to teach parents about reading and communicating with their child.
“The whole goal of doing this was to make a bigger impact in the CSRA than Kevin and I could do on our own. It was really rewarding to see in just our first year of making a difference the organizations we were able to give to and starting our first program, which brought Ferst Readers into Aiken County,” Brittany said. “I want to see Tee Up to Read reach more children in Aiken County.”
The Kisners also changed the life of some older kids, as well. Once they had decided which grants to fund at a board of directors meeting in February, the foundation decided to use the extra money it had to help fund two students’ college educations.
Mercedes Goodson and Kevin Holley were the recipients of the first Kisner Foundation scholarships.
Both Kevin and Brittany were impressed by the amount of applicants and the quality of their applications.
Increasing the Tee Up to Read program isn’t the only big plan Kevin and Brittany have for 2019.
“I really want to grow the amount that we were able to give last year. I want to donate more to the grant applicants this year. Another goal we have is to continue to get the community behind our efforts by going out to other community organizations,” Brittany said. “I’m very proud of what we’ve done in 2018, and I’m really excited for what the future holds.”
The grant application for 2019 will be available on Jan. 1 on The Kisner Foundation website.
“I’ve been blown away by how many people appreciate the impact we’re making and show up to various things we do in the community to support us and tell us we’re making a difference,” Kevin said. “That’s the highlight for me is that we can actually make a difference and change the way kids lives are when they’re growing up and affect the way they’re growing up in a positive way. That’s a huge deal for us.”