Employee relief fund helps teacher, family get back on their feet

ONE fund

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Kris O’Brien

Prekindergarten teacher Kris O’Brien heard about the ONE Fund, Knowledge Universe’s employee relief fund, a few times in the past year-and-a-half of teaching at the Kemper Road KinderCare in Cincinnati but she didn’t think too much about it.

“I thought, ‘that’s an awesome program’: something I hoped I’d never have to use,” she said.

Never say never.

This past February, O’Brien’s mother-in-law spent 18 days in the Intensive Care Unit after going into cardiac arrest. Every afternoon O’Brien and her husband gathered with family around her mother-in-law’s bedside, often staying late into the night. While O’Brien was able to work part time, her husband wasn’t working – between his reoccurring back pain (the result of an unhealed injury from a car accident 10 years ago) and his worry about his mother, he wasn’t able to go to his physically demanding job with the Parks and Recreation Department in nearby Springdale, Ohio.

O’Brien was grateful for the support she received from her center staff, support that allowed her to be with her family and to say goodbye to her mother-in-law.

After her mother-in-law’s death in March, O’Brien’s husband’s health continued to decline. The hours he spent sleeping on chairs and couches at the hospital made his back pain worse. He was out of work for about six months and the bills started piling up.

“It was an absolutely insane time for us,” she said. She and her husband are high school sweethearts and to see him hurt was tough for her.

By summertime O’Brien knew something had to change. She applied for the ONE Fund and, much to her relief, her request was granted. She and her husband used the money (about $1,000) to pay off some of their bills.

“It was such a relief,” O’Brien said. “It was such a weight off of my shoulders. Without that money I wouldn’t have been able to keep the electricity on at our home.”

O’Brien’s husband is still recovering – he’s now back at work and receiving treatment for his back – and the two of them are slowly tackling those bills. Although not financially able to contribute to the ONE Fund herself, it’s something O’Brien would like to do as soon as she can.

“If it wasn’t for someone else thinking of others I wouldn’t have gotten the help I needed,” she said.

The KU ONE Fund is a financial relief fund for KU employees. Money comes from contributions employees make from their own paychecks, starting at $1 per pay period.

For more information about contributing to the ONE Fund, check in with your center director or on the Benefits website.

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